The Washington Post

First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on Mickelson, Tiger, Masters drama

Apr 12, 2010

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

Well, that was one of the best Sundays of golf I can remember in awhile, and not just because of Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson's charge, Anthony Kim's amazing birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie run on the back nine, K.J. Choi's stumble, that was some great golf. And we learned that while Woods is being treated for sex addiction, he hasn't gotten around to anger management quite yet.

Of course, it's Monday, so we can also talk about the other weekend highlights, including Stephen Strasburg's debut and the Caps' regular-season finale and playoff matchup. Whatever you want. That's the kind of gal I am.

When Phil won and went up to the crowd and kissed and hugged his wife, I thought how much Tiger gave up with his infidelities. Tiger will never have a moment like this no matter how many tournaments he wins. I wonder if he realizes what his affairs cost him.

Well, we might as well start here. I was thinking about this as I watched Phil hug his wife. When, if ever, will Elin feel up to returning to the golf course? How do you get over something like that?

I had an idea for a 30-second Nike commercial: Elin, staring at the camera, with a voice over of her husband yelling "Tiger Woods, you suck!" looped over and over again. Think Nike has any interest?

If Tiger 2.0 is really interested in changing his demeanor on and off the course, I have a suggestion for him: He should watch his post-tournament interview outside of the scoring hut and compare it with Lee Westwood's interview.

One had class. One was like school in the summer time. If you can't figure it out, Tiger, yours was the one without class, which is reminiscent of Tiger 1.0. And when you come out and say that you are going to change your stripes, don't get irritated when people ask you about your outbursts and accuse them of taking Tiger 2.0 too far. You're the one who brought it up.

I thought the same thing; his interview was testy and lacking in grace, especially since he wasn't exactly being raked over the coals there.

You are exactly right: he is the one who brought it up. If had had no intention of changing, he could have said, "I'm changing my life outside the ropes; inside the ropes I'm going to be the same guy I've always been." But he didn't.

I admire his competitiveness and I believe he thinks he will win every time he tees off; that' s the way he was built. But to the public, I think he is still coming off as selfish and self-centered ... which seems to be where the whole problem started.

Would have been a "teaching moment" for him to have to stand on the green while Phil loved on his wife, and vice versa. That's what a man does: he takes care of business and takes care of his family.

That was a nice moment. Could it have been a bigger contrast to Tiger, and of course CBS played it that way as well. I thought the coverage was interesting, especially when they cut away on Saturday after Tiger's loudest outburst to basically read him a lecture. Very interesting.

While Wilbon might not agree, I'm sure I'm not the only one who was happy to see family man Phil Mickelson win the Masters over Tiger Woods.

Sure, you can argue that personal life is irrelevant; but it's human nature to root for good people who've been dealt a severe blow (Mickelson, the Canadian figure skater whose mother died during the Olympics) and against those who've been given everything and blown it.

I guess there's a small possibility Phil might also be a serial adulterer, but if so, at least he's kept it hidden. That's one of my problems with Tiger: sure, your private life is your business, but only if you keep it private.

Well, check into the Chat House today and see what Wilbon thinks. He might surprise you.

Yes, it's human nature to root for people who've been through adversity -- hence the cheers for Tiger Woods, actually. (Although did you notice when Tiger had that eagle yesterday and was all excited, there was one guy in the background with is arms crossed, looking disgusted and shaking his head. It was kind of funny.)

Whatever problems Phil and Amy may or may not have had in their marriage, I wouldn't know, but it's clear he's stepped up tremendously during her illness. I can't imagine your mother and your wife having breast cancer at the same time. That's a lot to deal with. It's a real credit to Mickelson's improvement in the mental game that he was able to block that out for a bit.

I see a lot of headlines in the vein of "Nice Guys Do Finish First" regarding Mickelson. I root for him and I believe him to be genuine, but can we assume anything anymore? Is this kind of headline risky for a paper to use?

Yes. We don't, in general, know. Look at  Tiki Barber. He was generally considered a nice guy. Leaving your eight-months-pregnant wife? Not nice. It's a bad idea to take the public behavior of an athlete and determine that he is a nice guy. Like I said, I don't know anything about the Mickelson marriage but absolutely everyone who does says Phil's been an awesome husband during Amy's sickness. What came before or after, I don't know.

When Tiger refers to himself in the third person, he removes himself from the matter in question. In other words: "I'm not a lying, cheating, ho-chasing scumbag, honey--it's that Tiger guy."

I hate the third-person thing, no matter who does it. Remember when George did it on Seinfeld? "A George divided against himself cannot stand!" That's the only acceptable usage.

I'm not a golf fan, but I caught myself watching it off and on yesterday and at about 6:30 last night. During the Tiger interview, all he could talk about was his own performance, how lousy he played. When it came time for Westwood, he said that next time maybe he'd get the breaks. Not as self-centered as Tiger, but still self-centric.

I was most shocked by Tiger's ego (I guess he has a right to it). But regardless, 1) Do you think other golfers resent him for saying he played so terribly when he finished 4th? I think he said he hadn't made a shot since Friday. 2) Neither Tiger nor Westwood mentioned how well Mickelson played.

You frequently hear that in other sports, e.g. player A or team B was better today. Why didn't we hear that yesterday considering how well Mickelson was yesterday and Saturday?

Westwood did credit Phil in the post-match interview (not the televised one, the one with the print reporters). It's interesting; he tried to make his loss seem like it was no big deal. Contrast that to Tiger, angry about fourth place. That may be why Westwood hasn't won the big one.

Can you be a nice guy and a winner? Yes. Seems like it's awfully hard though.

Re Tiger's remarks, I don't think they'll endear him to anyone, but I think his colleagues have pretty much made up their minds about him already. We also don't know what he says to them or about them behind the scenes. He may be a different Tiger in the clubhouse.

Westwood stumbled a bit but I think Mickelson got credit where credit is due. He won the thing; Westwood hurt himself but it was no fluke or lucky break for Phil. And I say that as not perhaps always the biggest Phil fan out there.

I thought Tiger could not have given a worse interview than he did. NO mention of the graciousness of the fans or the Agusta club. Your thoughts?

Agreed. It would have been a nice touch at 18 to have spent a few more seconds thanking the crowd with more waves, more smiles. The crowd was awfully good to him.

I am boggled by people's inconsistent application of the arbitrary rule that to like and cheer for an athlete, they need to like them as a person. I enjoy watching Tiger golf; as a golfer myself, I can appreciate how great he is at it. What he's like personally, I really don't care. Obviously he has destroyed his marriage, no doubt, and that's sad but doesn't make me want to watch him play any less.

Many great athletes, artists, writers, you name it have been philanderers, crooks, egomaniacs, etc etc and yet people love and glorify them.

Re: emotions on the course, he said he would try to control and limit them, he never said he would show zero emotion. As he said, it's Sunday at a major and he comes out playing like garbage for 6 holes and effectively kills any chance he had -- of course he's going to be upset.

Oh, I agree. He's still the golfer I want to watch. I would have been happy (but surprised) if he had won. I might not have watched the whole thing Sunday if everyone else hadn't been playing so well.

I expect him to get mad. But how many golfers did you hear in four days of coverage scream curse words, including "Jesus Christ!" Well, I heard one. I don't mind a temper, having battled one myself most of my life. But the sign of a grownup is the ability to control it. If that's him under control, then I would be very worried.

I am sort of confused as to why anyone cares how Tiger Woods reacts after he hits a bad shot. Sure, he gets angry and sometimes curses. So what? Athletes in every sport curse during the game and probably way more often, but they don't have microphones on them. Why do they have microphones picking up what he says after shots anyway? There are obviously lots of things to criticize him about, but I don't think criticizing him about how he criticizes himself is one of them.

See above. The microphones have been there forever. He doesn't care. For someone who claims to have such respect for the game, he seems to  have selective respect. He wants all the records. He doesn't want to follow the decorum. It's just not done. How many times have you heard Nicklaus do that? I'm guessing pretty much never; I'll have to ask my dad.

My family and I made a weekend of it in Altoona, and had a good time. The Curve mascot, a tuna named Al, is worth the (very reasonable) price of admission. However, I'm wondering why the Nats chose to have Strasburg make his debut there. Perhaps to take some pressure off him? It ws a financial windfall for the Curve: the official paid attendance was nearly 1000 over capacity, and from talking to other fans many spent the night, as we did, so saw the Sat. game and/or frequented other attractions.

Sure Strasburg will pitch in Harrisburg, and there will undoubtedly be an attendance bump each time he does; but his debut is special and I think it should have occurred in his home park. PS: Harrisburg has a lovely, recently-rehabbed park in the midle of the Susquehanna River. It's a nice day outing from the DC area.

Lucky you! Sounds like a great day and something to remember. I think they did do it to take pressure off him. They are bending over backward to take pressure off him.  At some point, of course, they won't be able to. And then we'll see what happens.

I missed what happened in the near fight between K-Rod and Harris, but heard what Harris claimed he said, sounded like nothing. Any word on what K-Rod said he heard?

Tried to find an answer but couldn't. Check on Nats Journal today; I'm sure Kilgore will be following up on that.

I drov up to Altoona yesterday. Nice 3.5 hour drive, at least until you hit Bedford -- trees have not started flowering yet that far north.

The Curve handled things well and I am happy to have been part of such an historic occasion. A long day but well worth it. But I think some of the hyperbole is misplaced. Sure, he won his debut, but only because the team came from behind to score 2 runs after he was out of the game. And 82 pitches in 5 innings qualifies him more for the Orioles than for the Hall of Fame.

I'm not saying he won't be a super pitcher, but give the kid a break. Watching the dozens of media types trotting him after he walked down the LF line to warm up (Altoona does not have bullpens as such) was pretty funny.

I couldn't believe there were 74 media members there. Amazing. I think he's got the goods, but there's a reason he's in Double A. He's right where he needs to be right now. Good for you for going; must have been great.

I don't believe in karma, but if I did, wouldn't Phil Mickelson's winning the Master's qualify, given his devotion to his wife who's undergoing cancer treatments (as opposed to Tiger and all his mistresses)?

That's one way of looking at it.

I can't believe they interrupted the coverage of the Masters to say something to the effect, "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news..." and then gave a comment on Strasburg, ending the interruption with "We now return you to coverage of the Masters." Shades of Orson Wells and War of the Worlds.

I missed this. Good gravy. That's nuts. I could see MASN doing it. Not CBS.

Tracee - does Tiger have a different definition of tempering his positive and negative emotions on the golf course than the rest of us? Because it seemed by early in his Saturday round that all of his talk of change was for not.

That's my feeling, but maybe I'm an old rule-following fogey.

Lose the first round to the Canadians. They get swept. Problem goal tending.

Well, this is interesting. I do know that Jose has struggled in games AT Montreal. Maybe Varlamov does the road games, Jose the home games. But swept? I don't see a sweep. We'll see who's right soon enough.

That's it for today. Y'all come back now, here?

(I can't pull that off.)

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Tracee Hamilton
Tracee Hamilton has worked at the Post since 1993, toiling in office obscurity as an editor before someone said, "Hey, you've got a lot of opinons and can write a little. Why don't you become a columnist?"

Her interests range from geneology to Nordic combined to Kansas basketball. If ever there was a Jayhawk who once flew off a ski jump, she'd know where he was buried.

Her list of pet peeves is considerably longer, but includes Missouri basketball and poor subway etiquette. She welcomes dissenting opinions -- in the way Great Whites welcome open-water swimmers.

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