January 4, 2010

The Ripple Effect Of Tiger's Injury

Tiger has done a tremendous disservice to the average golfer. By winning the U.S. Open with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a double stress fracture in his left leg, he has eliminated forever a cherished category of golf excuse. No longer will you or I or anyone else be able to explain away a poor round merely by claiming that we left our Advil in the car. Inflamed elbows and midswing back spasms aren't going to get the job done anymore.

"Sorry I'm playing so poorly. I just had brain surgery."

"Oh, yeah? How long ago?"

Hacker (real name) recently skipped a few Sunday mornings because, as he explained later, he had torn his rotator cuff and was unable to lift his arm above his head. In the past, the guys probably would have been sympathetic, and might even have offered him an extra half a stroke when he returned. Post-Tiger, though, the general feeling is that he probably just wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren. It should be said, in Hacker's defense, that he once had a heart attack on our golf course, yet he finished the round, stayed for a beer and went home and mowed his lawn.

My brother John once beat me in a 50-cent nassau despite having a broken rib, but I've always viewed his injury as my excuse, because it hurt him only when he made a bad swing and therefore helped him to stay on plane. Now I might have to rethink that one, too.

Thanks to Tiger, inflamed elbows and midswing back spasms aren't going to get the job done anymore.'

Tiger's forced vacation does have certain positive aspects. Household chores have been piling up all over America since the late 1990s because no true golf fan has been able to justify spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon pulling weeds or painting shutters while Tiger was on TV doing magic tricks. Now that the tour is temporarily Tiger-free, I might get around to cleaning my gutters, which have been clogged and overflowing since Masters week of 1997. Even my friend Nick, who has often complained that television commentators devote too much attention to Tiger, suddenly seems to have time on his hands. I tried to get fired up about the British Open, but Greg Norman's final-round meltdowns in majors aren't as thrilling as they used to be, and British camerawork is so bad that you might as well be listening to the radio.

Tiger's injury is going to force all of us to confront a dark truth that we've suppressed for the past dozen years: Televised golf is almost unbelievably boring.