And to Think They Say its Boring

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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Let's review the bidding here:
 
The year in golf is still more than a month away from being half over and already the following things have happened:
 
  • A lefthander whose name is not Phil Mickelson has won the Masters. That would be Canadian Mike Weir.
     
  • Jack Nicklaus has played in a Nationwide Tour event along with three other members of his family. The low Nicklaus? Jack.
     
  • Two players David Toms and Hale Irwin won tournaments on the same weekend despite four putting a hole on their respective final rounds.
     
  • Annika Sorenstam, a woman, has played in an official event The Bank of America Colonial on the PGA Tour. She missed the cut. But she shot a better 36 hole score than 11 men.
     
    And to think that golf's critics continue to come down so hard on this sport because, they say, there is a boring sameness to it. Or, they say, Tiger Woods dominates the sport too much. (Tell the latter to the German sponsors who paid Woods an estimated two million American dollars a couple of weeks ago to jet to Hamburg only to quickly disappear from the top of the leaderboard.)
     
    There are no guarantees in golf. Not even for Tiger Woods. But there is Phil Mickelson. The only thing more astonishing than his massive talent to do things to and with a golf ball is his almost frightening unpredictability. It's not that Mickelson is a flaky character along the lines of, say, a Mac O'Grady. It's just that you never can be sure what explanation he will offer next to account for both his numerous successes and his spectacular failures.
     
    Mickelson, in fact, might be the poster boy for golf's ability to produce surprises. And 2003 is proving to be a banner year in that regard. I know this to be true if for no other reason that I am part of a television show The Golf Channel Pre Game and The Golf Channel Post Game that has provided its viewers with interviews this year featuring, among others, Cheech Marin and Clint Eastwood.
     
    Boring sameness, indeed.
     
    The question, then, becomes: What is in store the rest of the year for all of us who follow this game?
     
    Maybe Mickelson will win his first major championship and maybe it will happen as soon as next month at the U.S. Open near Chicago on a golf course called Olympia Fields that suits many of Mickelson's strengths. Let us not forget that Mickelson has finished in the top 10 at four of the last five U.S. Opens.
     
    Meanwhile, it should be noted that something happened very quietly here at Colonial this week amid the din of the media circus that surrounded Sorenstam's historic participation in this grand old event:
     
    The torch quietly passed. Sorenstam has been the best woman player in the world for several years now. But the icon for the women's game has remained Nancy Lopez, who won 48 tournaments and put her Tour on the sporting map more than 20 years ago. Nothing has happened to diminish Lopez' achievements.
     
    It's just that Sorenstam is now the chief symbol for women's golf. Who could have predicted that it would have taken a pressure filled appearance on the men's tour to effect that status?
     
    Boring sameness, indeed.