Usually, I would be giddy today as the US Open--my favorite golf tournament of the year--gets underway this morning at Bethpage Black in New York. But this year I am actually sort of dreading the tournament. Not because I worry about the best golfers in the world getting embarrassed by a nearly impossible layout (that is actually why I enjoy the Open so much)--but rather because my favorite golfer, Phil Mickelson, will be dealing with some really heavy emotions.
For those who don't follow golf closely, Phil's wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is scheduled to start chemotherapy in a few weeks. After the initial diagnosis, Phil took a few weeks off from the PGA tour to be with her. But Amy is insisting that her husband get back out there and to continue playing--especially this week--at the tournament where he has finished a heartbreaking second a record-tying four times.
This is beginning to sound like the script for your average Hollywood sports movie--the lovable golfer who is struck by personal tragedy rises above the pain and the distraction to win the big championship and be carried off by the crowd--with a cutaway to the ailing wife smiling, crying and cheering the loudest. Unfortunately, Bethpage Black is not a Hollywood sound stage and the outcome this week is not scripted. It is a layout that punishes even the least inaccurate of shots.
Because Phil is the second most popular golfer in the sport, we will get to see everyone of his shots as part of TV coverage of the Open. What I fear is that he will let the distraction get to him and that we will watch a meltdown of a world-class player over ten televised hours.
I imagine some of you are thinking "He's just playing golf"--but that Phil's job out there. And I know that people go to work every day dealing with tragedy in their lives--but how many do it in a theater where millions of people can watch their mistakes--and then replay them for hours on end on Sportscenter and another channel dedicated entirely to your career?
So good luck to Phil this week--and here's hoping that maybe Hollywood will come true just this one time.