Is it my imagination, or does Father's Day always happen on the final day of the U.S. Open or some other big golf tournament? Most of my recent Father's Day memories include hanging out in the ancestral kitchen with my Dad and several brothers, eating the remains of whatever pot-luck feast the family created, waiting for a golf match to end so I could escape to the beach.
Golf is a TV sport I enjoy more in theory than in reality. It takes too much time to follow a golf tournament. But part of my Father's Day memory bank includes watching the final hours of the final day, when something wonderful or horrible sometimes happens. Yesterday's match took the cake. My Dad watched the last hole with his face about three inches from the TV. Unlike a basketball tournament, the NBC broadcast rarely cut away for a commercial, so the drama/farce was unrelenting. There was little conversation around the table; just a lot of "wow," and "where did that shot go?"
If you avoided the whole media onslaught, the match can be summed up this way. The tournament was almost over and Phil "Lefty" Mickelson was winning. Then he hit a shot that landed in a trash can.
There's a lot of good writing out there today about Mickelson's train-wreck of a final round, but this piece from ESPN.com's Pat Forde puts it in a context that non-sports fans will also appreciate. A sample:
No other sport leaves its combatants as mentally exposed at moments of peak pressure. We see their strengths and frailties etched upon their faces, carved into their body language, expressed through their swings. There is no running and no hiding.
When a golfer's arms turn to cement and his mind races toward panic, there are no teammates to pass to, no timeouts to call, no refs to blame. The game is the ultimate merciless meritocracy.
Lefty's response to acute pressure seems to be rash boldness. He had sublimated that urge to do something reckless in recent years, with results (three major championships, where forever there had been none) that should have reinforced that newfound prudence. But Sunday at Winged Foot, with less-qualified contenders collapsing all around him, Mickelson couldn't resist joining them by reverting to the old brain-lock days.
He made a bizarre early decision to gouge a 4-wood out of gnarly rough, a brilliant idea that produced a one-foot flub and an eventual bogey. He got away with serially errant drives on a course that rewards accuracy. But at finishing time, Mickelson couldn't resist the suicidal impulse to fish that driver out of the bag — then he couldn't resist trying to hit a hero shot out of trouble when a simple punch-out to the fairway might have saved the day.
In Jim "Bones" Mackay, Mickelson might have the most involved caddie in golf. But short of placing him in a sleeper hold, no caddie and no swing coach and no fawning gallery could save Phil from himself Sunday.
With the crater from the implosion still steaming, Mickelson owned up to the monumental gag job.
"I am such an idiot," Lefty said.