OMeara Can Hold His Head Up Again


OK, you can pass it along now - Mark OMeara officially has a game again. In the future, you can expect him to be invited to special events for reasons other than being Tiger Woods best bud.
OMeara won the Skins Game (sorry, the ConAgra Foods Skins Game) last week. The competitors were Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Woods friend his ownself. O'Meara once was a wonderful golfer, but the last three years he has sort of fizzled.
He finished out of the money (read: missed cut) in 14 of 24 events this season. He finished 97th on the money list, and we can assume that at least one of those 96 who finished ahead of him would have loved to have competed at the Skins. Well, make that one of 94 Woods and Mickelson did compete, didnt they?
Hes 45 now, almost 46, but even as an older player, he was very good. Between the years of 1995 (when he was 38) to 99 (when he was 42), he finished 10th, fifth, 13th, and 45th. That, my friends, is quite respectable, especially when you throw in a Masters win and a British Open ' both of which OMeara accomplished in 1998.
When the year 2000 rolled around, though, OMeara seemingly lost interest. That is perfectly reasonable for a man who has won a total of almost $13 million in tour purses alone, much less what his endorsements, appearance fees and oversees tournament winnings have provided. And it's very understandable when you lose a parent, as O'Meara did. But hes very well fixed, thank you, and he just became better fixed thanks to the Skins winnings.
Now he seems to function mostly as Tigers buddy ' also not a knock, but seemingly selling himself short when he obviously could still be a winning golfer. You look at the totals for the Skins, you look at the competition (Woods, Mickelson and a rejuvenated Couples), and you realize theres still a tremendous competitor in there. At least, there is when he really wants to be.
A personal note, if you will indulge me for a moment: I once had the opportunity to play 18 holes with OMeara, just he and I. I was flabbergasted when he asked me what my handicap was as we rode to the first tee. At the time I was a 12. Fine, he said, he would give me 12 strokes. Then he proceeded to pull up to the members tees where I would be playing ' and played the same course. I will never forget ' he shot 63 that day, made two eagles and a whole lot of birdies, and as we went back to the car I was dreading the money I had lost to him.
He laughed and said, Forget it, bud, when I rather timidly asked how much I owed him. Then, he took off his shoes that he had just pulled out of a box that day and gave them to me. It was an extremely pleasant experience, the entire day.
I say that merely to illustrate the type of human that OMeara can be. He has become much more guarded the last few years as his friendship with Tiger grew closer. Thats understandable ' so many people want to get around him to get to Woods, theres no way he can have the same circle of close friends he once did. He has chosen to be Tigers close buddy, and in so doing hes had to limit his own personal contacts.
But, judging by last weeks results, maybe he should get serious about his own game again. He has to be a lot better than 97th on the PGA Tour, even if he is 45 years old. Actually, he finished 112th and 116th in 2000 and 2001, and theres no question that he is much, much better than that.
How much better? Well, in two days he delivered a good old-fashioned rear-kickin to the other three, including golfs Big Two. He reportedly played the same tees as the other three (and it certainly wasnt the members tees), but he wasnt seen at the end giving away any shoes. The other guys also get theirs free, as it turns out.
OMeara isnt lazy ' far from it. But it takes a lot to get him motivated. Golf of late hasnt motivated him much. He won his majors back in 98, and its been difficult to get back in tip-top condition, as least mentally. If he doesnt have some reason to play well, he doesnt. The money has been there. So have the titles. Now hes working on other things besides hitting a 6-iron ' like being a good friend of Tigers.
Does he want to play championship golf again? Probably not, at least the kind that it takes to be a winner week-in and week-out. But the Skins Game brass doesnt have to be embarrassed to invite him back next year. This time, he will be returning as defending champion.