Thursday, June 19, 2008

And the Ass of the Week is...

This picture always cracks me up...

The award this week has several folks in the running, like the two fund managers of the now defunct Bear Stearns hedge funds, or perhaps the award could go to every talking head that believes the "worst is behind us, and the government bailout has avoided a recession"...Please. The market is down today again, and the VIX continues to spike...(See earlier post.)

And the winner is... I think the most worthy candidate is me. I am the ass of the week. I have been on record with several folks stating that golf has become boring to watch (there's an oxymoron) because one guy is winning it all. I have always rooted for the underdog, maybe because I believe myself to be one, but nevertheless, I continued to root for anyone to just make Tiger earn the victories he wins vs. hand them to him, in a sense. I am thankful to be alive to have seen some of the great athletes of their time (ala Jordan, Tiger), so meant no disrespect by my rooting interests against him. So it wasn't so much rooting against him, but hoping that others would make golf competitive again.

The US Open at Torrey Pines Unless you were under a rock this past weekend and following week, you already know that Tiger won the 104th US Open at Torrey Pines. I posted earlier here and cited the odds of his winning in addition to the stress the course's demands would place upon his knee. Tiger got pushed by Rocco Mediate, the 158th ranked player in the world. But what transpired during that US Open was truly legendary.

Why Tiger Should Not Have Won The obvious reason is that Tiger was playing on a bad knee that hadn't fully recovered from earlier surgery. Tiger had not practiced much before the US Open due to the surgery. Tiger played in the Open against his doctor's wishes, and supposedly told his doctor that he'd win the event. Tiger led after the 3rd round, but winced on most shots after hitting them. Tiger not only had a damaged knee, but a hairline fracture in his tibia of the same leg. It's really unbelievable if you stop and think about the win in the context of the injuries he was hiding.

A Round for Our Generation, the Shot of the Tournament So on the final round of regulation, Tiger doubles the first hole, but manages to scrape back all day. Rocco gets in the clubhouse at 1 under, and now has to wait for the greatest golfer to finish his round. To cut to the chase, Tiger is 1 back on the 18th tee box, and has to birdie the finishing 18th to force a playoff, which the USGA makes a full 18 holes the following day, not sudden death after the round. He drives it into the left side fairway bunker, then tries to advance the ball but his ball ends up in the right rough, probably Tiger's worst shot given what was at stake. So Tiger's now lying 2, hitting his third shot to the green, and it's from a gnarled lie. The wedge he hits ends up front right, pin high, and to appreciate that shot, you have to realize he had to have the shot to give himself a chance at a birdie putt, and there was water left in front of the green, and the lie was from the rough. It was the shot of the tournament. Oh, and his leg was broken and his knee ligament was torn. Sorry, forgot that bit.

So as I'm watching, I found myself thinking this guy is not human. And he's not folks, some like to talk about the mental toughness, this guy actually is (in the context of golf and sports). You knew that putt was going down, and it promptly did. "Unbelievable" says Rocco in the clubhouse. No shit Rocco, we're with you. The following day playoff was not a blowout like most predicted, but it was thrilling because it went back and forth, with neither Rocco or Tiger seizing control. In the end though, Tiger hoisted the trophy after the 1st sudden death playoff hole.

OK, so I've gushed enough, and acknowledge that he will most likely pass Jack's record. I truly respect what he did those five days. But I think the most amazing thing was that during the tournament, Nike unveils its new ad that features a voice over of Tiger's late father, Earl Woods, talking about Tiger's toughness. It was insane. The promo is so good, but only Tiger could ever back up Nike's business strategy to air during a major tournament. See, the ad has Tiger's father explaining what he did to make Tiger so tough while we are watching in real time this toughness play out; simply amazing. And while the ad hails Tiger's mental toughness, the underlying hook is truly about a father and son's bond, because the US Open is always on Father's Day weekend. In b-school, and in other contexts, people like to talk about convergence. If you witnessed Tiger's greatest round and win, and a commercial that reminded you of what you were actually watching Tiger do, then you witnessed convergence first hand, and it was awesome.

Congratulations Tiger. You make us believe that we can all be great in our own way. And I humbly accept this award as the ass of the week.