It has been an interesting year in golf.
Yesterday Phil Mickelson won the Masters. It may have been the most emotional win of the long Masters’ tradition. Last year, Phil struggled and came in second at the Masters. Several weeks later his wife, Amy (one of the most beloved figures in golf), was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatments began and the couple, with three children under 11 years old, held themselves together as best they could.
In the summer, Phil’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; insult seemed added to injury.
On Sunday, the year of struggle subsided a bit and Phil played a spectacular round of golf; at one point making one of the greatest shots in Masters’ history. Phil closed out the round with a birdie on the final hole winning by two strokes in convincing fashion.
Because of the weakness that results from cancer treatment, Amy watched most of the tournament from a nearby home. But when Phil headed down the homestretch, she bundled up the kids and they headed to the golf course. Weakened as she was, she stood waiting for her victorious husband. Following his birdie put, Phil raised his arms in victory – and walked into Amy’s arms making one of the Masters’ most personal and deeply emotional moments.
A year of trial, love, patience, and hanging in there together was rewarded with a day of celebration. It was a deeply humbling moment.
And, then there was Tiger’s year. In the last year Tiger misbehaved badly with numerous affairs, all the while keeping his public image squeaky clean. Weeks before the affairs came to light, he affirmed his family was the most important thing in his life. What a con artist. The Thanksgiving car crash brought a year of deception to light.
In leading up to this year’s Masters, Tiger had taken time off to work on personal issues. He chose to come back on the tour at the Masters, partly because this particular tournament is least accessible to the public. It would be a safe way for him to reenter golf. And so before the tournament, all the hype was about Tiger. His 1 PM interview on Monday was carried live on ESPN and Fox News.
Tiger did not play particularly well, especially for him. He struggled on Saturday and Sunday. At one point during the last round he hit a ball into trouble and started swearing; after pledging he was a “new man” and wouldn’t swear on the course. Interestingly, he took the name “Jesus Christ” in vain, though he is Buddhist.
Phil and Tiger, both fallible, both human; not only are they interesting studies in human nature, they are illustrations of what is in each of us. Under the stress of life sometimes we buckle and prostitute ourselves in a thousand different ways. We make deception our way of life.
And then sometimes, we rise to the occasion and do ourselves proud. We face unusual hardship with grace and profound commitment. The struggle of life bonds us more deeply to those we love.
It has been a very interesting year in golf, one that illustrates the essence of what it means to be human. The thoughts, feelings and passions that have been part of Phil’s and Tiger’s lives this past year are in each of us. We have options. We can behave badly. We can practice deception. Or, in the press of life we can prove ourselves to be people of strength and character.
It is up to each of us. What kind of person shall you become?
Grace and Peace,