Tiger and Phil - Champions On the Golf Course, Family Struggles Off

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been professional golf competitors in name only as the competition has been severely one-sided before Sunday with Tiger having 14 Major Golf Championships to Phil's 3. With Phil's Masters win and 4th Major Championship, he now presents a formidable threat to Wood's 14 year dominance on the golf course. More importantly, both men have serious family struggles that couldn't be more different. Tiger's scandal has been well publicized although Phil's struggles are less known yet no less important.

Two things impressed me about the weekend's coverage of the Masters Golf Championship:

1) Tiger played remarkably well for someone who has not played a tournament in five months and has had to deal with a worldwide barrage of negative media attention regarding his admitted adultery. I expected him to perform at a high level as did those who know the game of golf and he did not disappoint. It would have been a small miracle for him to win the tournament after such a long layoff although he had a chance.

2) Phil made a strong statement and stomped on the neck of every competitor including Tiger on route to his convincing Master's victory. For a man that should have 7 or 8 Major Championships, he is back on track and on his way to fulfilling the greatness that was expected of him. Phil is the only person who can mount a future challenge to Tiger's dominance and that is great for golf. His trademark boldness in attempting shots that could have been his demise at the Masters was nothing less than thrilling.

One thing I didn't like was the way the coverage promoted Phil as the anti-Tiger; someone who embraces being a family man. I understand why the angle was presented that way as it is good TV - Family Man Phil versus Non-Family Man Tiger. In my opinion, it's always dangerous to anoint anyone (in this case Phil) as a model of monogamy or a family man as we don't know anything about Phil's private life other than what we see on TV or read. Just as many (not me) assumed that Tiger was the perfect family man previously, the same is being said about Phil now.

Phil does appear to have all the qualities of a good man but only he and his family know the truth. By promoting these values, the media may be inviting the sleazy tabloids to investigate Phil's past life as they are in the business of finding the dirt on celebrities. Personally, I prefer when the focus is on the brilliant golf that Tiger and Phil play, not the private life that should remain their business. I found this writer's article very interesting - her quote is below:

Phil Mickelson should be very nervous about the mantle hung around him Sunday in Augusta, Ga. It was the cape of a superhero, embroidered with misguided phrases such as "the perfect family man" and "good karma." It clashed with his green jacket and all but begged TMZ to invade his life.

Even though they are # 1 and # 2 in the world of golf, their family lives are worlds apart.

Tiger has admitted that his behaviour with other women was irresponsible and has vowed to become a better man. Here's what what I wrote a few months ago:

Let's hope that a new and improved Tiger has begun the elevation toward good man status while wholeheartedly embracing a life of unwavering integrity. With his mega-platform to educate, inspire and empower, it would be a shame if that was not the case.

In addition, let's not forget the impact that his father Earl's death in 2006 has had on him. According to Tiger, they were very close and the loss was probably more devastating than many of us realize. Tiger has a healthy portion of family struggles on his plate.

Phil has dealt with a family life that has been ravaged by difficult moments and disease. Not many people know that his wife Amy almost died from complications after the birth of their son. Also, both his wife and mother have been fighting a battle with breast cancer. Many of us can relate to loved ones struggling or dying from cancer so we know the stress that Phil is experiencing.

His tears at the 18th hole Sunday told the story as to how special this win was for him.

“This is a very special day and a very special week,’’ he said. “To have my wife and kids here to share this is something I can’t put into words. It just feels incredible, especially given what we’ve been through the past year.’’

He was not certain his wife would even make it to the course. “I didn’t know she was there until I saw her when I was on the 18th green,’’ he said. “Not sure if it was before or after I putted.’’

“I’ve been trying to stay at home and rest,’’ she said. “I just wanted Phil to focus on winning the Masters, not worrying about whether I was sick.’’

Similarly, Tiger's tearful quote after he won the 2005 Masters in stunning fashion is below.

"This one's for you, Pop," the 29-year-old said, turning his streaming eyes to Camera Four after his epic first extra-hole win over Chris DiMarco. "I just want to dedicate this to my Dad. He's having a hard time. He's here in Augusta but wasn't healthy enough to come to the course. Whenever I've won before, Dad's been here, but today he wasn't here. All I want to do now is go back and give him a huge bear hug."

The big positive is now the spotlight is back on golf where it should be - not the scandalous affair of the world's best golfer. One can only hope that the media can find a good story related to golf when covering the top two players and give them some space in their private life.

Being an absolute lover of golf, I am looking forward to the future Tiger and Phil battles particularly in the four major championships every year.

Tiger's status is already legendary with the awards (14 Majors) he has won. Phil will never reach those heights as time is not on his side at the age of 40. What he can do is become one of golf's all-time greats and the 2nd best player of his generation - in the same way Arnold Palmer (7 Majors) was a great #2 to the dominance of the best ever, Jack Nicholas (18 Majors).

As long as Tiger and Phil's family issues don't roar and become overwhelming, it will be a joy to watch them compete. If fortune doesn't smile on their private life, golf will have to take a back seat to what should be life's most important treasure - THE FAMILY.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede in front of Stadion - the location of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden

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