How can you not watch the Masters

By By Stan Torgerson
April 11, 2002
There are many people who will tell you they don't like golf on television. I guess I can understand that, although week in and week out I'm a golf fan, on television or any other way. I played the game for years. Not at the higher levels, you understand, but every once in awhile I'd break 80 without kicking the ball in the rough. Haven't played since a rotator cuff operation several years ago. I'm still a fan, however, even as a spectator.
Give me a choice between a golf tournament on TV, an NBA basketball game or one those three hour lets talk it over between every pitch baseball games and you'll find me tuning to golf every time. Since neither college football nor basketball is on the screen at this time of the year, professional golf is the next best thing. Not the seniors or the ladies, you understand. The regular tour, the one that moves to the state of Georgia this week.
Different strokes for different folks and the strokes I like belong to Tiger Woods and his friends.
But even if in the normal course of events (there I go with another play on words) how can you not tune in this weekend to watch the world's greatest players on one of the world's greatest golf courses?
It's the week of the Masters and I can assure any and all of my friends that if they wish to contact me for any reason whatsoever I'll be home in front of the television set, pulling either for or against Tiger Woods, depending. Depending on what? Depending on whether John Daly has a chance to win it.
That poor guy has had more ups and downs than a yo-yo. He won big a couple of times at the front end of his career. Than he substituted the pleasure of the bottle for the fun of making putts. He went through a couple of wives as well. He had a lush contract with a major golf club manufacturer and then the only thing lush about his career was himself. Somehow he found the ability to grab his own bootstraps and pull himself up to where he played well enough, not to win a tournament you understand, but well enough to win the necessary amount of money to make the field at the Masters. He was the male version of the Unsinkable Molly Brown singing "I ain't down yet."
You've got to feel for a guy like that. You've got to look at that big round beer-lover type face and say it will be the comeback story of the year if he can win this week. I like sport's equivalent of Cinderella. The 39 year old baseball player who finally makes it to the major leagues. The former grocery store shelf stocker who becomes the quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and wins the Superbowl. The female tennis player who discovers drugs and other vices that put her on the junk heap of the sport, only to rediscover virtue and self control and earn the rating of number one in the world.
Oh, I admire the athlete who does it effortlessly, goes to the top and year after year stays there making the big bucks and hearing the applause. Will Tiger Woods ever stumble? I don't believe so and I love to watch him play. But you can't get involved with Tiger Woods. He neither needs nor deserves sympathy. He's just too good for anything except admiration.
But John Daly does command sympathy. He's been at the top and he's been at the bottom and all points in between. Winning the Masters would just be another notch on Tiger Woods belt, a belt that is notched to the breaking point already. For John Daly it would be his life restored, justification for all the times he has had to shake himself and swear off his weaknesses until he finally did and earned a tee time at Augusta.
Admittedly, if this was England where it is legal to bet on tournament golfers, Daly would be a 100 to one shot, if that low. Tiger Woods would be the favorite as he is in every tournament. He is a superb golfer, perhaps the greatest the game has ever known week in and week out. But even Tiger doesn't win them all. Every once in awhile someone else slips in there and steals the trophy and the big check. Why couldn't it be this week. Why couldn't it be John Daly?
Yes, the world of golf still isn't convinced he's gone from being Bum of the Week to being Mr. Clean. His game doesn't suit the course at Augusta they claim. You can't just pull the big club back and hit the ball as hard as you can swing, they say. You need finesse in order to handle the subtleties of the Masters layout. The fact that Tiger Woods wallops the ball 300 yards plus and still wins seems to escape the so-called experts. They say if John Daly wallops it 300 yards he will end up in the Azaleas or the pond.
Well, maybe. Every athlete deserves to have at least one fan. I'll be John Daly's this week. Me and good fortune. We'll both smile on him. At least I will.
Go get them Big John. Glory is only 72 holes away.