Trust me, there is nothing like winning a Major championship in professional golf. History tells us there are four really big tournaments: the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and the PGA Championship.
The greatest players to ever play the game are measured by how many Majors over their careers they can win. As the old golf saying goes, “Golf makes liars out of honest men, cheats out of altruists, cowards out of brave men, and fools out of everyone.”
The Open Championship played last weekend in Muirfield, Scotland is the oldest championship in professional golf and for me the most important tournament in golf. For 142 years the British Open, as we call it in the United States, has long been my favorite.
When I got hooked on golf back in 1980, I saw the great Tom Watson, my idol in golf, lose the British Open to the great Seve Ballesteros at historic St. Andrews. Watson became my idol because he beat Jack Nicklaus in the 1977 British Open and the 1982 U.S Open.
Old golf saying number two: “Golf is a game whose aim is to put a very small ball into an even smaller hole with instruments singularly ill-adapted to the purpose.” Phil Mickelson Sunday raised his stature in golf by winning his first Open Championship. His final round of 66, including four birdies over the last six holes, completed one of the greatest comebacks in Major golf history.
It was his career fifth Major championship, tying him with Ballesteros and making him the first player since 1980 to win three of golf’s four Majors in his career. Mickelson has now won the Masters, British Open, and the PGA Championship. Mickelson is an American, and for that reason I celebrate his great accomplishment. Old golf saying number three: “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”
If he ever finds a way to win the United States Open, in which he has finished second a record six times including last month at Merion, he can achieve the career grand slam, winning all four Majors. Only five players have ever achieved it: Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods, the most exclusive fraternity in golf.
Old golf saying number four: “I know of no better cure for illusions of grandeur than a game of golf.” World number-one and favorite Tiger Woods finished tied for sixth and now has gone 17 Majors between victories, dating back to 2008. Now, that’s five years, Tiger is 37, and some think he does not have it any more. He certainly was in position to win the British Open; he had the lead on Saturday before a big mistake, hitting his 3-wood into a cross bunker on the par 5 17th and making a bogie that left him two shots back heading into Sunday.
I think Tiger has spoiled us. We expect him to win every tournament, and that is not possible. Old golf saying number five: “Golf combines two favorite American pastimes: taking long walks and hitting things with a stick.” He has won 78 times on the PGA tour, second only to Sam Snead’s 82, and has 14 Major championship wins, second only to Jack Nicklaus’ career-best 18.
When Tiger does not win now, he is unfairly criticized because he set his goal as a child to beat Nicklaus’ record. I think he will do it.
Nicklaus last won a major at age 46. Tiger is just 37. Mickelson is 43, and if he can win at 43, I think Tiger can also. When you beat Tiger up for not winning as he usually does, just be patient and reflect on old golf saying number six: “Golf is the equivalent of crack for middle-aged White men.”
I think Tiger will catch Jack’s record, but right now, today, Mickelson is the champion golfer of the year.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.