"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) --
South Africa's Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink and Mark Brooks lent further credence to the fact that golf is a game that brings men to their knees and to tears. Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, has once again shown the imprudence of a casual approach to the game that furnishes his livelihood. And Tiger Woods has become mortal by the standards most of us set for ourselves.
It was an eighteen-inch putt. Shaquille O'Neal has feet bigger than that! It was all Goosen needed to win the U.S. Open. His mind was already tallying the deposit, the size of the new swimming pool, whether he would win the next tournament, what he would say to the television interviewer in a few moments and how graciously he would treat everyone, from Cink to Woods. It was not to be. That thought dissipated faster than the smoke clearing after the tiger reappears in a Siegfried and Roy finale.
Weekend golfers across the country can relate to Goosen's misfortune on the 72nd hole on Sunday.
It was the kind of shot that we, as a matter of courtesy and because nothing is on the line, treat as a gimme when we hit the course over the weekend. You know, the one you take a second time if you do decide to putt and continue to do that until you make it so you can count it on the scorecard as a made putt. Tell me you don't do that and I will tell you that I hope the rest of your life is not built upon the same blocks of putty.
Look at it this way. Goosen had just missed an eight footer for birdie. That would have closed the matter then and there. Just lag it to the lip and tap it in and it was over. Great options. They were already engraving his name on the trophy and had to stop. This ranks right up there with the Titanic and Hindenburg. He did what we do all the time and wonder, inwardly and out loud, how do the pros just tap these in? Well, they don't. Not Mickelson, Goosen or Cink.
This was going to be his first major championship. You know, right up there with winning the lottery. An opportunity that does not come a second time for most of the guys on the Tour. He told an interviewer that he was not going to jump out a window that evening. Actually, he should have seriously considered that one of his options. Hackers all over the world, glued to their TVs, celebrated in some perverse fashion and watched a chain of events on the last hole of the battle for the U.S. Open title unfold in the very same fashion as their own weekend outings do.
Back in the tent Mark Brooks was busy figuring out what third place was worth after doing his own version of collapse with three putts. In the midst of all this, Tiger Woods did not win his fifth major championship in a row, Mickelson once again managed to self-destruct with a lack of concentration blurred amid the false confidence of some magnificent shots, David Duvall faded faster than a Southern sunset and the rest of the field belonged out there with most of us. This was not a typical PGA Tour stop.
Brooks finished with two bogeys on Sunday, including one on the 72nd hole.
Stewart Cink should have had a crystal ball with him, a soothsayer of sorts, a druid that might have whispered in his ear what lay ahead if he would just two putt the final hole. It would have helped had he not missed the green with his approach shot, which he promptly dug out of the thick Bermuda grass and prayed to within 12 feet of the hole. His mind was undoubtedly rushing back to a similarly missed short putt that resulted in a double bogey earlier in the round. He could have won. He could have tied and been in the playoff. He pulled a Mickelson by missing the 12-footer and then, his mind off on some planet in outer space, he blew a "gimme." When Goosen missed his, I was amazed that Cink did not unload his lunch right there on the green.
Brooks was already cleaning out his locker. The Texan with just one major title, the 1996 PGA Championship, just happened to glance at the TV set or they would have had to send security out to the highway to bring him back. If you think that you did not believe the events that unfolded try to imagine what went through this young man's mind. It boiled down to a playoff between Goosen who, at age 32, has won four times overseas and is a veteran of the 2000 Presidents Cup European team and Brooks, 40, with seven wins on the tour, including the PGA Championship.
This was a U.S. Open that will be remembered as much for what did not happen as for what did. It gave new assurance and heart to all of us, to say to the rest of our foursome when we blow that short putt, "Hey, Goosen, Cink, Brooks and Mickelson miss those too!" We will be teeing it up with renewed confidence, with more spunk and spirit than we ever had, with the conviction that we can do anything that these guys can, only better.
Does this mean that any of us are ready to apply for our cards? No, it just means that the pros can come down to our level every now and then. Does it mean that our scores will improve? Only with erasers. Does it mean that we are ready for match play with others? Only if they are speaking of lighting up. Does it mean that anything about our respective games will change? You gotta be kidding!