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Tiger wins in Charlotte.

Tiger Woods took home another tournament trophy Sunday, ninth in his last twelve events on Tour. 9 of 12 — the statistic is mind-blowing in this game. But the really astonishing thing is this: he wins now by means quite different, and more admirable, than he used to.

In this victory in Charlotte, on the superb and mysterious Quail Hollow Club, with a loaded field — I believe the CBS anchor said 27 out of the top 30 players in the world — Mr. Woods won by two strokes and it could have been more. He played several poor or unimpressive shots, or just unlucky ones, first on a wild stretch on Saturday’s rain-delayed third round, which included a hole-in eagle by Vijay Singh, and then again, improbably, on Sunday. But in the end, Tiger Woods won this up-and-coming event by his mastery of what is most succinctly called the Tough Par Putt.

Yes, he still drives longer than almost anyone on Tour (I heard an on-the-course broadcaster call out something like 347 yards on one drive Saturday); and yes, he still has marvelous touch in his short game; and yes, he can still manage the most elegant and fatal iron play, as at last years’ British Open. He still has all those things, but now he has something better than them all: mastery of the Tough Par Putt.

I guess recklessly that a par putt, for a professional golfer, is the point of most stress in any big round. The rest of us may dread double-boogie putts, and find birdie putts so rare that little can be said systematically about them at all, but these guys sweat pars — especially on holes where they feel they had a good shot at lower numbers. Often a par putt is the natural issue of a miscalculation or miss-hit. Overcook a five-wood going for the green in two on a par 5, and next thing you know your putting for a “very important” par, and the crowd is nervous; or get a lucky bounce on a really bad shot, where the par putt feels like a gift: that’s pressure, baby.

A second characteristic of the Tough Par Putt is that it is longer than is comfortable: twelve feet on a straight putt, say, or eight on a slippery one. All the psychological pressures mentioned above are now exacerbated by the intensity of the task required.

And what does Tiger do with such putts? Roll them into the hole, that’s what: almost every one in the hole. He putts best when the situation is toughest. He follows bad shots with steely and brilliant ones. He does not fail make gift shots fruitful. This is an amazing power.

And it is an admirable power, because it bespeaks as much discipline and practice as it does raw talent.

* * *
Why oh why, you may ask, do I watch golf on TV? I will give three reasons independent of the game of golf itself. (1) It is a slow game, and children do not like watching it; ergo, they wander off and play, sometimes together, leaving me alone. (2) The commercial-set is much classier that standard fare, which admittedly is not saying much; but at least you are not bombarded by lewdness and deceit. (3) The broadcast announcers are not incorrigible blowhards, but rather more often than not clever, amusing, or thoughtful men.

Comments (13)

The commercial-set is much classier that standard fare, which admittedly is not saying much; but at least you are not bombarded by lewdness and deceit.

It probably wouldn't take much for the commercial advertising during golf tournaments to improve upon that aired during football games, or even baseball games. This is a source of much consternation for me, as I enjoy those two sports, and my older son is taking a liking to them, his facing lighting up when he hears that a game will be on. (His mother groans.)

If thy football game with commercials offend thee, cut it out. For it is better to enter into life having no football game, than...

(Just kidding. Sort of.)

It may come to that, Lydia; it sadly may. But in a world where the ideal of "the great knight," in Kirk's phrase, has all but vanished, will we lose also even the substitute of the great athletic contest?

In golf at least, not yet.

Here's a suggestion. (Guys, try not to be too annoyed with a female for making it.) Ditch the TV channels, keep only the set and some sort of player (VCR, for example). Impose on a friend to tape the crucial games for you, then fast-forward through the commercials when you watch them using the VCR.

Other than that, I have to wonder if the facsimile of chivalry and sportsmanship (the illusion ruined from time to time by drug scandals and other misbehavior by the actual athletes), and even seeing some _real_ sportsmen in the games, is worth having in one's house a box that puts such garbage into the mental atmosphere on a regular basis. I gather it also tempts people to watch non-sports shows that are junk.

I heard over the weekend that in his career Woods has had some 1,500 or 900 some-odd 3 foot putts and has missed...one. Only a golfer can understand how astounding this figure is within the arena of tournament golf. There is golf, said Hogan, and then there is tournament golf. And I can vouch from personal experience that they are not the same. Remember Scott Hoch in his playoff with Faldo at Augusta: a three footer for his moment of greatness. I knew he was going to miss it before he hit it. There is often something in the way a man carries himself that gives the game away.

I see Lydia has tried to turn your paean to excellence into an anti-TV jihad. Well, it's a tool, like the computer, and can be use for good or ill. Nationwide golf broadcasts featuring the most challenging and beautiful courses in the world populated by athletes who are required to report their own transgressions is an unmitigated good.

I find this obsession of yours with "a good walk spoiled" a most admirable trait.

Hey, hey, it was because both of those other guys referred to the wretched commercials during football and baseball games that I jumped on the hobby horse. And Maximos even expressed some distress over his son's interest in watching a game that has such awful commercials (and half-time shows, I guess, too). _They_ opened the topic. I just suggested a course of action. :-)

But I'll stop now.

Women always have a "suggested course of action," don't they? Especially when they see you enjoying yourself. That's why we love them.

find birdie putts so rare that little can be said systematically about them at all

What is this "birdie" you refer to?

(Enjoying the site, guys (and gal!); keep up the good work.)

Bill, I heard that amazing stat too. Three-footers are not always easy!

I don't remember Hoch and Faldo at Augusta, but I sure do remember Norman and Faldo at Augusta.

Thanks, Chris.

Paul, I played with a guy in a tournament once who was so unnerved by par putts of 3 feet or less that he hopped in the air as he made the stroke (naturally, they all missed). For his first putt of whatever length, his feet stayed still. The short ones that had to go in fried his synapses. I've got other stories, most of which would demonstrate that for many the game is not therapy, but creates the need for it.

Hey Paul, apparently my dad enjoys playing golf with you more than me since his bio on this website makes no mention of me. :)

Hey dad, I can still kick your butt...wanna play for money?

Atta girl!

We need someone around here to keep your dad in line.

A man's ego often leads him into foolishness. Name the time and place, sweetheart, and bring cash.

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