After ten years of husbanding, a happy ending.
As the crowd roared deafeningly, the victor used both hands to grab the head of the stunned, vanquished, and glassy-eyed opponent.
If this were one of those Hollywood epics involving some futuristic dystopia, the victor would have given his opponent’s head a quick and vicious twist, and the neck would have sickenly, audibly snapped, and the opponent would have sunk, dead, to the ground.
But this wasn’t Hollywood. The victor leaned close and, smiling and laughing, said this to his opponent: “You’re gonna be a daddy!!!!”
The scene was the final green of the 1999 U.S. Open, ten years ago this week. The victor was Payne Stewart, an irrepressible free spirit who would die in a plane crash later that fall. The vanquished was Phil Mickelson, who famously had said he would leave the course even if he were leading in the final round if he got word that his wife Amy, expecting their first child, had gone into labor.
Stewart, a sometimes abrasive character early in his career who had experienced a much-praised attitudinal shift as he himself had experienced the joys of being a dad, had made a 15-foot par putt on the final hole to snatch victory from Mickelson. Yet, as Stewart began celebrating, his first thought was to tip his hat to the younger man’s impending fatherhood. As it was, Amy Mickelson gave birth the very next day.
The scene of Mickelson’s face in Stewart’s hands was acclaimed as one of the more poignant moments in modern sports history — and that was even before Stewart’s tragic death, and before Mickelson’s series of other heartbreaks at the U.S. Open. In retrospect, the moment looks not just poignant but epochal.
Here we are, ten years later, and Phil and Amy Mickelson are again in the news. This time, their news is sad rather than joyful. Amy, a beloved figure on tour for her outgoing manner and charitable initiatives, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Early reports were that Phil would not even compete in the Open, but later diagnoses provided a better (if still worrisome) prognosis for Amy’s potential recovery without immediately debilitating treatment. So, with an eye back home and a nervous heart, Phil will tee it up after all.
Poetic justice would give him the title.
Sure, the man has a certifiable record of … well, of being a doofus. His final hole double-bogey to blow his lead in the 2006 U.S. Open was perhaps the most lame-brained collapse not committed by a Frenchman in all the decades of televised sports. And that collapse was, well, par for his course at least in terms of his oft-bizarre decision-making at times of high drama.
Many reports also question whether his public “aw-shucks” affability is a bit of an act.
Well, in this case, who cares? His devotion to wife Amy is certainly real, and his generosity is, too.
Set up as his nemesis, again, is Tiger Woods. Always Tiger. Tiger comes in wearing a unique triple crown. He won the Open the last time it was played at this week’s venue, Bethpage Black, back in 2002. (Yes, Mickelson was runner-up.) He won the Open last year, in his incredibly thrilling and supernaturally gritty 19-hole playoff over the highly likable Rocco Mediate while he, Tiger, sported both a torn knee cartilage and a bad stress fracture in the same leg. And Tiger won the last tournament he played, just two weeks ago — at the course and tournament designed and hosted by the game’s greatest-ever professional champion, Jack Nicklaus.
So Tiger is a title defender on all three levels, and on a rocket ride toward every all-time record in the game of golf. Surely the same script will play out as has always played out before, right? Tiger as champion, Phil as phailed phoil, phlailing away in near-miss heartbreak right at the end.
Well, here’s saying the fickle gods of golf this time won’t let it happen. Sure, Tiger Woods is mostly an admirable character. He does good work with his youth foundation, and he is a wonderful supporter of all who serve in this nation’s uniforms. But if he wins this year, especially with Mickelson as a bridesmaid, then this whole world should give up forever on the cause of cosmic justice.
I write not as a particular fan of Phil — I’m not. But as a New Orleanian, I can’t stop myself from comparing Mickelson’s response to Hurricane Katrina with that of Woods. Mickelson played in the New Orleans tour stop the year immediately following Katrina, knowing that his support could make a huge difference for the tournament’s success. He then donated $250,000 out of his own pocket for Katrina relief — and followed up with equal contributions from his charitable foundation each of the next two years as well.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online