My mother hates sports, but she loves Tiger

By Joe PosnanskiMay 12, 2013, 5:31 pm

My mother is a huge Tiger Woods fan. Even now, one second after typing that sentence, I cannot believe that I just wrote those words. But it’s true. Somehow, it’s really true.

My mother, as I have written many times before, does not care at all about sports. I usually make this point by telling the unearned runs story – when my first baseball story appeared in a newspaper, Mom said she liked it but asked, “Who are you to decide that a run is unearned?” – but the truth is there are a lifetime of stories like that. There is no single story that could capture the day-after-day-after-day scorn she has expressed for these silly little games that took up way too much of my attention. I would never be able to count the times my mother shook her head at her oldest son and said the word “Sports!” with disdain. Nothing on earth seemed sillier to her.

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She came by this sports indifference honestly … my mother’s father, if possible, had even less use for sports. My grandfather was a scholar in the old fashioned sense of the world. He was actually a tailor, but in every free moment you would find him in his library reading. It was never light reading. Never. He read history. Philosophy. Ideology. Law. I have this memory of him reading a medical journal of some kind. My grandfather read in four or five languages, there was some disagreement about that, and he would not read a novel if it was the last book left on earth. Shakespeare was too slight for him. Romance was beneath contempt.

And sports? My grandfather, more than once, would do this little one act play for me. The newspaper would come, and my grandfather – a small but sturdy man who I believe could have sustained himself on hot water alone – would take the paper in his two hands. He would very carefully take out the sports section (which, in those days, was often part of another section, like business). And then, he would tear it from the rest of the paper, march like John Phillip Sousa, and dramatically stuff it in the garbage. “That,” he used to say, “is what I think of sports.”

My mother was a slightly less devout non-sports fan – she always liked the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics, especially the figure skating – but only slightly less devout. She never, ever was in the room when there was a baseball game or football game or basketball game on television. She did not come to watch my Little League games, as far as I know she never even considered it. This wasn’t a lack of attention – my mother always was VERY attentive to my life. It’s just that we did other things – read together, played board games and cards together, went to the movies together. Sports was for me and my father. She thought it a complete and utter waste of time.*

*It was always entertaining when we were playing Trivial Pursuit, and my mother landed on orange for a sports question. Every single baseball answer was Babe Ruth. Every single one. He was the only baseball player she could reliably name. She might know of Pete Rose or Joe DiMaggio or Jackie Robinson, but she would almost certainly get the first name wrong. For a golf question, she once guessed Jack Nicholson.

This has not changed much in my 25 or so years as a sportswriter. Out of love, Mom does read my work, at least some of it, so she has involuntarily picked up a few things. I do believe my mother, alone among her peer group, could tell you that the win is a lousy way to judge a pitcher’s performance. But, all in all, the state of affairs has remained constant. My mother will talk all day about politics. About movies. About just about any television show out there because she watches them all. About what’s a good bargain at Costco and what isn’t. But sports. No. Never.

So, it was kind of shocking when one day, not so long ago, she told me that she watched a golf tournament because Tiger Woods was in it. My mother had a strange reaction to the Tiger Woods scandal of a few years ago, the opposite of what you might expect. Up to that point, Tiger Woods was just a name to her – maybe not even a name. If my Mom cared nothing at all about sports, golf was even lower on the list. Golf, in addition to being a sport, was a COUNTRY CLUB sport. It had nothing at all to do with her life. She read things I wrote about Tiger Woods, but that’s where it ended.

Then the scandal … and Mom did not like the way the tabloids and people went after Tiger Woods. It isn’t that she approved of his lifestyle, it’s more like she didn’t think it was anybody else’s business how he lived his life. All that was between Tiger, his wife, his family, she had no use at all for all the rumors and stories and judgmental attitudes. “It’s not like he broke any laws,” she said. To her, Tiger Woods is rich and famous, and she figured how he lives his life is his own affair – same as Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio and Anne Hathaway and anyone else she only knows through the prism of their fame.

So, when Woods came back to golf, while people openly wondered if Woods would lose his fan base, he ADDED at least one fan, someone who had never once thought about golf for more than a half-second. She found herself rooting for Tiger Woods to win. And in rooting for Tiger Woods, she actually got hooked on watching golf. Key word: Watching. My mother would be no more likely to swing a golf club than jump from a plane. But watching golf – well, one of many things my mother and I share is our slightly obsessive personalities. When my mother gets hooked on something like television golf or television poker (she knows EVERYTHING about it) or American Idol or Game of Thrones or Harlequin Romances, she goes all in. Mom doesn’t care for Bruce Springsteen, but I think she likes how much I like him because, well, I’m her son.

Back to golf: Mom will only watch when Tiger Woods is playing (making her like many other people), and she is thoroughly into it. She has opinions about different golfers. She follows the schedule closely. The weekends have become little golf miniseries. Always, she wants Tiger Woods to win.

When I called Sunday morning to wish Mom a happy Mother’s Day, she immediately started to talk about Tiger Woods. She did not go into the silly little Tiger-Sergio feud* – doesn’t care. She did not go into the specifics of Tiger’s game or the theater of TPC Sawgrass or the relative importance of The Players Championship.

*When thinking of this ridiculous “feud,” I can’t help but think of Jim Murray’s line about the Twin Cities: “(They) didn’t like each other and from what I could see, I didn’t blame either of them.”

She just said that Tiger is a marvel because he’s always at the top. The other golfers on the leaderboard change, they rise and fall, they miss the cut one week and win the tournament the next, new names seem to fall out of the sky. But Tiger Woods is always there, always in contention, always great. That’s what impresses Mom. That was at the heart of her constant message to us kids. Anyone can be good once or twice. Anyone can succeed when they’re feeling good, when the breaks go their way, when they have natural talent. But to be good time after time, year after year, through the rough times, through the painful times, when the ball bounces badly, that is what it means to be successful and maybe even great.

“Do you think Tiger will win?” she asked me.

“He has a good chance,” I said.

“He ALWAYS has a good chance,” she corrected.

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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.