Tiger Becomes Human

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At the Eric Peters Laboratory of Well-Timed Featurettes, I am constantly striving to bring you all manner of entertainment from near and afar. After reading and writing solely about such overblown mundaneities as faith, art, cinema, rechromed bicycles, rabbit coffee mugs, and picking apart such literati as East! Or Be Jostled, let us now turn our attention to a subject more dear to my fleshy heart than the ongoing health-care debate, or even whether Derek Webb is or is not a modern day prophet. I hereby predict three comments without having mentioned him. Now that I’ve gone and casually dropped a minor celebrity’s name in a public arena, that number surely rises to at least four.

Today’s topic — or at least until a more reputable post hastily bumps this one down the rungs — is sports, golf to be exact, a bandwagon I gladly hop aboard. Even if you know absolutely nothing about the game, or the age-old argument of whether or not golf can be considered an actual sport, even if you wouldn’t know the difference between a mashie niblick and a putter if they slipped out of someone’s grip and cracked you on the forehead, even if you could care less about stimpmeters, then you will no doubt recognize the name Tiger Woods. He has ruled the golfing world, not to mention the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) money list, for the better part of the last decade or more. Oh man, now that I’ve mentioned his name, my post-post commentary surely spirals to six. Choo choo.

I’m one of about fifty-odd weirdos who can and will sit in front of a television for hours on any Sunday just to watch grown men hit little white multi-dimpled spheres around lush, manicured layouts of Poa, Kentucky blue, and bent grasses. If Tiger is anywhere near the leaderboard, I will do anything I can to get out of just about anything else I’m supposed to do in order to watch him perhaps make a late-round charge.

This summer Tiger did something he never managed to do either as a touring professional or as a young, svelte amateur prodigy: he lost a tournament after leading 3/4 of the way through it. Oddly, the reason he failed to clinch the deal is due in large part to the failure of his usual strong-suit: putting. If you’ve ever played competitive golf (Imagine the level of my popularity in high school as I was twice selected to captain our woeful Bulldog golf team) then you no doubt realize, and can empathize with, the challenge of calming the equivalent of a legion of swallow-tail butterflies in your stomach as you stand with a mere flat blade in hand and nothing but five eternal feet of Poa annua between you and a 4.25-inch hole in the earth. It is never as easy as it looks. But Tiger has been the master of this domain, reeling in untold numbers of ungodly long and short putts over the years eliciting responses of systemic euphoria from normally stoic, polite crowds, or “Yerg! Why did I have to become a pro now?” thoughts from fellow touring comrades who suddenly found themselves on the losing end of Tiger’s antics.

Normally, with Mr. Tiger standing on the 72nd green, either tied for the lead or with a chance to tie or win, with nothing but a yawnful seven-foot putt standing between him and even more legendary status, the odds of that putt falling were nothing shy of a done deal. But in the last of this year’s four annual majors, the PGA Championship, Tiger missed when it counted; often enough to let his lead slip away for good. Sportswriters gave him Hades for it. Eureka! The man is human, after all. People who expect perfection from him have no business doing so, and if they expect it of him, they must surely expect it of themselves. And if they expect it of themselves, they probably expect it of their offspring. So goes the cycle.

I have wracked my, by now, out-of-shape athletic mind for a squat-thrust of minutes trying to exhume some sort of spiritual parallel, or at least offer a simple moral to the story. I came up with nothing except this: no two putts and no two greens ever roll the same, most golfers have a favored putter which only occasionally does not feel like a viper in the hands, and if perfection were ever humanly possible, if everything were predetermined, if fate were so predictable, there would be no need for sport, for healthy competition, for gravity, for choice, for an ounce of God, or for one another.

Eric Peters, affectionately called "Pappy" by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He's a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he's not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he's touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


18 Comments

  1. Rod

    Nice post Eric…but then again I’m another of the 50-odd in front of the TV for the majors or wanna-be majors. I was wholly engrossed by the President’s Cup a coupla weeks ago. Tiger’s dominating 6-and-5 victory over his PGA antagonist was particularly satisfying.

    If you haven’t heard, our buddy Mark has more enthusiastically picked up the game upon his relocation to Chicago. He seems to be improving. Of course, since neither of us have been there to witness it, this simply means he’s cheating. 🙂

    Speaking of Tiger, my Tigers play your Tigers tomorrow night. Not too hopeful on this end, but your Tigers do have a history of odd game-costing moves against my Tigers.

  2. Aaron Roughton

    I hate golf, but this clever post makes me want to like it. Or something. I really just want you to make it to six. I’ll give it a while and then apologize for the “I hate golf” comment if no one else posts.

  3. Mark Geil

    I’m just wondering why a golf course would feature Poa Annua. I thought that was the name of this insidious green stuff that seeks to ruin my bermuda every year. This same stuff that I’ve spent hours plucking by hand and has almost made my wife OCD is on golf courses? Bewildering.

  4. Rob

    Normally I wouldn’t post, but with the minor celebrity name dropping, not to mention the re-worked title of AP’s best selling novel, I couldn’t resist.

    On a future VH1 Behind the Rabbit Room special, I predict that Eric will confess his chart-topping hit “Chrome” was originally a diddy about golf clubs. Only later, after being deeply moved by Lance Armstrong’s return to wearing spandex for a living, did he decide to dedicate it to a bicycle.

    The original version went something like this:
    Golf for my heart, golf for my skin, golf becomes a part of me like God inside of men, I want golf, I want golf…clubs.

  5. E

    Great post.

    Golf can be such a pernicious game.

    Even the worst duffer will hit at least one shot a round that Tiger himself would be proud of. Then he’ll think to himself, “hey, maybe I can do this!”, not realizing that even a blind chicken gets the corn sometimes.

    Not that I’ve experienced this myself, but I’ve heard stories.

    My favorite round of golf I saw on TV, was in the Caribbean and the last round was trying to come in before two huge tropical storms collided near them. They didn’t make it – and the wind was gusting at 70 mph from random directions. I actually saw someone putt, and the wind completely stopped the putt, then blew the ball off the green behind him – I was laughing in evil tones and enjoying that very much.

    Welcome, gentlemen, to what my golf experience feels like everyday.

    The response was interesting though, about half of them starting giggling, put their hats on backwards and started playing the back nine with their putter only (or some such thing). The other half were Furious and determined to master this weather foe with skill and focus and strength of will.

    They didn’t make it either. They would adjust to the 60 mph cross wind and as soon as the drive took flight, the wind would stop and they would shank it into the water, just like they set up to do.

    Those guys ended up breaking every club in their bag and started cussing like Derek Webb. They just couldn’t get to the place of surrender and going with it.

    Eric said (very well), “…if perfection were ever humanly possible, if everything were predetermined, if fate were so predictable, there would be no need for sport, for healthy competition, for gravity, for choice, for an ounce of God, or for one another.”

    Yeah.

  6. whipple

    Never having endured the maddening confustication of playing the links, my knowledge is limited to Steven Pressfield’s beautiful rendering of the mysticism of the sport (either real or imagined) in The Legend of Bagger Vance. Inside every man is one authentic swing, if only he can get out of the way and let that swing do what it does. Sounds a bit reminiscent of a recent RR post on serving art, that does.

    Forgive me if I find your high school mascot lacking in the delicacy needed to loft an eagle shot out of a lower bunker. Not the mine (the Red Devil) was much better, but I was/am a band geek.

  7. Eric Peters

    @ericpeters

    Wow, 11 comments. And that’s without my having to resort to using the “S”-word. I’d like to thank everyone and Michael Jackson’s white glove for helping me surpass my expectations of six post-post comments.

    E, I must find that footage on YouTube.

    Mark G., I’m several knowledge-steps below a novice on the subject of turf grasses, but I’m pretty sure some courses use Poa annua for their greens. Apparently, it’s a finicky grass, requiring nearly perfect conditions and constant maintenance to survive in the golf season (AKA, summer). But, yes, I do believe many folks consider it a nuisance grass.

    Rod, do we need a golf intervention with Mark? (geaux LSU)

  8. Tony from Pandora

    Hey, whipple, I am a former Red Devil, an Arlington Red Devil, in Ohio. What kind of Red Devil are you?

  9. Bill

    Being one of the 28,000 or so members of the PGA, I have had the experience of standing over one of those five-foot putts with nothing less than my future career riding on the result. You see, in order to become a member, you must pass a Playing Ability Test in which the goal is to shoot a target score for 36 holes. I came down to the 36th hole needing that five-footer to pass the test and gain entry into the PGA’s education program. I know how I was able to quiet the butterflies and attain excellence, but not knowing Mr.Wood’s beliefs, I don’t know if he taps into the same power as me. When I placed the results in God’s hands, I was assured victory.

  10. Kevin

    Too proud not to mention that last week after toiling for close to twenty years at the game of golf I shot my first even par 9 hole round. Sad thing was I was two under after seven holes and then doubled the 8th and then finished with a par on the ninth. It is amazing how easy all of the pros make it look.

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