Niagara Gazette

Opinion

August 18, 2013

SINGER: Lefty: From Porter Cup to U.S. Open?

Niagara Gazette — The July 23-27 running of the 55th Porter Cup at NFCC showcased a longtime barometer-venue of future golf greatness, not least, in ‘72’s winner, Ben Crenshaw, and especially in the 1990 victory by a younger, shinier Phil Mickelson. Yes, like many former winners here, striding the lovely, roadside 18th green ringed by bunkers, Mickelson was destined for greater things, but also en route to unforeseen, gray hair-inducing difficulties he couldn’t have predicted.

For Lefty always had that personality trait which is such a two-edged sword in golf, as it is in life itself–sensitivity. I can still see him surrounded by closed-in, hungry crowds as he tried to hit out of hard-pan woods on the final hole of a U.S. Open he’d led by a bunch and seemed to have in the bag. And he didn’t get it done ...

Which made me think of Greg Norman, once anointed heir apparent to Jack Nicklaus (both blond and strong), and so often violated, it felt, by peremptory, elbow-tugging media vultures, pouncing at the sweaty Shark as he exited the course with a splendid third round score, and posing questions like: “How will you avoid blowing this major tomorrow like you did previous ones?”

Add to that all the gonzo-ish shouters (starting in the ‘90s) of “you’re the man!” or “in the hole!”, which for human racehorse types like Norman must have been especially jarring, and... well, you just felt for him. The Shark ended up winning two British Opens as his majors, in part because crowds over there were by and large, more respectful and probably smaller than at prestigious U.S. tourneys.

And then came Mickelson, taking the torch from Norman, as another favored target of media and crowds. (Some of the latter’s denizens more apt, it seemed, for rollicking at wrestling or dodgeball matches than watching pro golf!) Like Norman, the early Mickelson seemed another big money-winner who couldn’t get it done in majors–that was the kind of sadistic message you got from many who followed his career from the get-go.

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