People that Mr. Woods Could Take a Lesson From – If Only His Ego Was Not in the Way
[Editor's note: After writing about an ugly American - see next story - it seems only right to write about a a person who exemplifies what it means to be a good, decent American.]
This Forum does not usually comment on sports news, there being plenty of people far more erudite and qualified to do so. But some stories are just too good to pass up, and the story of Bubba Watson, who recently won the most prestigious sports event in the world, the Master’s Golf Tournament, is one of them.
It is impossible to mention golf and not mention Tiger Woods. Mr. Woods is a superb athlete, a great player and probably one of the most dislikable sports figures in the world today. Mr. Woods turned out to be a rather reprehensible person in his personal life, but the commentary here is on his professional life. As a professional golfer Mr. Woods seems to believe that everyone is privileged to see him play, and that the public owes him, not the other way round. For Mr. Woods golf is a chore, a job, something he does to earn a living. He plays as little as he can, restricting his efforts to major tournaments that he feels are deserving of his presence.
All of that has made Mr. Woods a not very successful golfer recently. He needs to study and learn from Mr. Watson. First of all, Mr. Watson is playing this weekend in a tournament he did not want to play in, because he wanted to spend time with his family, particularly his new son.
“We’ve had him for a month, and I’ve only got to see him eight or nine days, so it’s not enough, not a lot,” Watson said. He sounded rueful. He said he cried when it was time to leave his son and wife in
Orlando, Fla., to fly to . New
If he did not have a title to defend, Watson said he would have been inclined to take another week off to catch his breath. “I have not had enough time with my family, by myself or anything,” he said, “but I felt obligated to my fans, to
, the city, that I should be here.” New Orleans
He added: “I felt like being defending champ, it was an obligation that I should be here. I think I should be honored that I won here before, and I should be here. But yeah, I would love to be at home right now watching my little boy and spending time with my wife.”
And Mr. Watson is not alone in this belief that family comes first. Another great golfer, Phil Michelson was more than ready to quit a major tournament if his wife went into labor. Mr. Michelson has shown that he has the character to be a winner on and off the course.
Another important thing is that Mr. Watson is playing professional golf in part because he likes to play golf.
“I’m just Bubba from
,” Watson said. “Small town. Play
golf because I love the game of golf. I play golf because it’s fun. Every day
is different.” Bagdad, Florida
And as a result Mr. Watson has a following not only from the public, but from his fellow professional golfers as well.
As Watson was wrapping up his news conference, Ben Crane stood patiently in the back of the room waiting for his turn at the podium. Crane counts Watson among his closest friends on the tour, which is why he did not think twice about returning to the course after finishing his final round at the Masters to cheer Watson along in the playoff.
Joining Crane in the crowd were Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley, with whom Watson has grown close during their weekly Bible study sessions. “We knew that Angie was at home,” Crane said, “she wasn’t able to come out because of the situation with their baby, and so we just wanted to go out and support our friend who we love.”
A couple of points to note here. One, can anyone imagine any golfer on the tour doing what these people did if it were Tiger Woods. No, almost certainly not a single other tour pro would have joined the gallery to support Mr. Woods had he been in the playoff.
The second point, can anyone imagine Tiger Woods joining the gallery to support another player? Not in a million years. And by the time Mr. Watson was playing the round of his life Mr. Woods was certainly long gone, and thinking only about Mr. Woods.
Tiger Woods will win more tournaments, he is just that good. But unless he changes he will never be what Mr. Watson, Mr. Michelson and the others like them will be, decent and admirable human beings.