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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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.