It's often been said of the Masters champion that he is simply the last man standing after four grueling rounds. In the case of next month's edition of the event, that might become a literal translation.
On Saturday at the Valero Texas Open, three-time green jacket winner Phil Mickelson joined a list of elite players who have withdrawn from tournaments in the past month. All of which should leave the Thursday morning ticker before the opening round looking like that of an NFL Sunday.
QUESTIONABLE: Tiger Woods (back); Jason Day (thumb); PROBABLE: Phil Mickelson (oblique); Hunter Mahan (back); WILL PLAY: Bubba Watson (allergies).
That's a veritable training-table all-star team. More important, it represents a group of potential Masters contenders who will enter the year's first major championship in various forms of pain or discomfort.
How much pain or discomfort is, of course, subject to change and will vary amongst these players, but in most cases such withdrawals are preemptive measures of caution. Each has been criticized to some extent for failing to give it the ol’ college try at the Honda Classic or Arnold Palmer Invitational or Valero Texas Open, but all will not only be forgiven by the outside world should any of these players find success at Augusta; they’ll also realize the cautious move was the right move.
That’s not to condone all WDs, but it does suggest we should at least trust that these players’ hearts are in the right place. Anyone who claims they know a professional athlete’s body better than the professional athlete himself should probably use those powers to a greater benefit than denigrating one who felt it wasn’t in his best interests to continue.
The truth is, in most – if not all – of these listed cases, these players could have continued if the tournament in question were the Masters. Just like most NFL players would give it a little extra effort for the Super Bowl.
For those who have ever touted the marathon-not-a-sprint cliché, this strategy should ring true.
Based on the number of big names who are currently hurting, next month’s Masters title might go to the last player remaining who can lift both arms into the green jacket.
Then again, keep in mind one of the game’s oldest axioms: Beware the injured golfer.
If one of them can parlay a recent withdrawal into a major victory, he will not only receive the accolades that come with such a win. He’ll also gain the satisfaction of knowing the cautious move was the right move.