Dear Tiger – Come Back Soon?

Originally Posted April 17th/2011 – http://www.flagstick.com/editorsdesk/?p=1756

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After sitting through approximately six hours of Masters television coverage on Sunday, along with refreshing my Twitter stream every chance I had, I feel as though suffering through a Masters hangover that’s lasted until now is justified.

We had drama, we had intrigue, and we had suspense. We had shot-making, heart-breaking, life-changing.

And then, we had a winner.

Charl Schwartzel?

No disrespect to the man. It’s not like you can go around Augusta National like you had an actual hangover and win the green jacket. Schwartzel chipped-in from 100 feet on no.1 to make birdie. Then he stroked a wedge from 120 yards out for an eagle on no. 2.

Game on.

He made four straight birdies to end his round and ripped the green jacket from the clutches of seven men who held the lead at some point that Sunday faster than Shooter McGavin did to Happy Gilmore.

Globally, golf is at its strongest point ever. For the first time in the history of the game, since they were defined as such, there is not a single American who holds one of golf’s major titles. Two of the last three major champions have been South Africans, both products of Ernie Els’ elite school which trains potential South African golfers for greatness.

Kids of all walks of life are now taking up the game. It’s more accessible than ever thanks to some programs implemented around the world. But there was one man who was able to take golf and cross-generationally, monumentally, and inspirationally bring it to the masses.

Tiger Woods was right there on Sunday. He was almost back.

Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with updates as he took the lead at 4:00 pm. The last time he co-lead a major, I don’t even think Twitter was popular.

He did almost everything he needed to do to win, including shooting his lowest final round ever at The Masters (67) and pulled a whole group of non-believers back to the edge of their collective couches. He made golf interesting again for even the casual fan for a few glorious hours.

Tiger has never won a major coming from even one stroke behind, let alone seven. But before you know it, he’s shot a front-nine 31 and has fist-pumped and swore his way back into our hearts.

Earlier, I mentioned that golf was at its best, globally. But culturally? We need Tiger back. Out of the past 10 major champions, only one (Phil Mickelson) has gone on to win a tournament again. The past 10 major champions have also all been different.

No dominance.

No streaks.

A lot of question marks.

Take Schwartzel for example. To borrow a line from the legendary Rick Reilly – “[…] Who knows if we’ll ever see HIM again. He seems like a work in progress. Even his first name is unfinished.”

For every Tiger Woods, there is another Louis Oosthuizen. For every Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, and Jack Nicklaus there is a Paul Lawrie, Shaun Micheel, and Michael Campbell.

Look no further than television ratings and now, social media monitors. The world loves to see someone dominate, even if this past week was just a tease.

The days of Arnie’s Army and Jack’s Pack (I just made that one up, but it has a nice ring to it) were the first glory years of golf.

Then we had the first real taste of international success with Seve and José and Sir Nick and Bernhard and Norman and Price.

Then a skinny, half-African-American, half-Asian 21-year-old trumped The Masters field by 12 strokes in 1997.

“Hello, world” indeed.

Give me Tiger Woods beating the field by 15 against a Lucas Glover/Ricky Barnes playoff any day. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that.

Schwartzel can keep his jacket. But for the rest of us, we’ll keep those Sunday moments where, for just a little while, we could believe in dominance once more.

Game On – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 Hits Shelves

Originally Posted – March 28th/2011 – http://www.flagstick.com/teeshots/?p=3152

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The state of video games these days can be summed up by the incomparable country twang of Brad Paisley, in his song Welcome to the Future.

A line from the song says – “I’d have given anything/to have my own Pac-Man game at home/I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade/now I’ve got in on my phone.”

I managed to skip the video arcade generation, but one of the first memories I have of playing a video game was on my parent’s old Windows 95-run computer in our basement.

Links LS 98 featuring Arnold Palmer kept me entertained for many an hour taking me away to the famous golf links of Kapalua and Latrobe, long before Tiger Woods paired up with EA Sports.

IGN GameSpy called Links LS 1998 “the sequel to one of the greatest golf titles of 1997 […] Even though the courses are the same, the enhancements make the playing experience new once more. New to Links LS 1998 is what Access calls ‘look ahead rendering,’ which calculates your ball’s final resting position and begins to load the correct scenery into memory as the ball is in flight.”

Ah yes. To borrow another classic music quote, the times they are a-changing.

On March 29, EA Sports will release another version of their wildly successful golf video game franchise: Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 12The Masters and this time the game will include a feature that no one thought would ever occur.

Players will be able to tee it up on the famous and exclusive links of Augusta National Golf Club, virtually strolling the hallowed grounds down Magnolia Lane, serenaded by the soothing baritone of Jim Nantz.

The game has featured many of the world’s most famous courses before, including St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, Pebble Beach, and Bethpage Black, just to name a few.

Other games have tried to top the success of EA Sports but the TW franchise continues to have a stranglehold on the market, even without having Augusta on its famed list of places-to-play.

No longer.

In an announcement made in early January, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne said that as a result from the partnership with EA Sports, 100 per cent of Augusta National’s proceeds will be contributed to the newly created Masters Tournament Foundation, which is designed to annually invest in development programs for the game of golf worldwide.

It was an attempt to foster an appreciation in the history and traditions of The Masters which led to Augusta’s partnership with EA Sports three years ago. Just as EA approached Tiger to be the face of their franchise beginning in 1999, Augusta has done the same here, in order to capitalize on “one of the popular entertainment choices of kids today.”

With all due respect to Mr. Payne, the release of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 will not only keep the younger generation entertained, but people of all ages who are finally able to get as close to Augusta National as most ever will in their entire life.

Peter Moore, president of EA Sports, said in a statement that “for more than a decade, the Masters tournament has been the most requested and coveted feature for (the franchise) among our fans.”

Not only do players get the hallmark gameplay of the Tiger Woods franchise, this year’s edition features a collection of Masters-specific challenges including ‘Masters Moments’ (playing through historic moments as players measure up against some of golf’s legends) or ‘Tiger at the Masters’ (reliving each of Tiger’s four wins at the Masters by attempting to equal or beat his scores in each round of the tournament).

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 retails for $59.99 and is available at video game retailers everywhere for the PS3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii beginning March 29.