Forest's Fast Take: Masters
Issue   |   Tue, 04/11/2017 - 22:03

The 2017 Masters tournament brought together the world’s best golfers to drive, pitch and putt on the tricky Augusta course. Although golf isn’t exactly a physical sport, the Augusta course can be described as arduous, and the four-day affair is not one for the weak-minded.

The players have caddies to carry their clubs and never move above a brisk walk, but the mental strife that players face over more than half a week take the mental toll of a marathon.

The Masters features one of the smallest fields in the world, with only 93 entrants in 2017, as it is the most selective of the tournaments.

The small roster contributed to an excellent display of golf. Though no single person, nor small group, ran away from the field, there were some great shots, holes and rounds over the four days. Despite all of the Vegas gurus’ top ten most likely winners falling short of winning, the most shocking news came before the first day.

The world’s current number one, Dustin Johnson, playing the best golf of his life, slipped and fell the evening before day one. He tried every trick in the book to be physically ready for the year’s most vital tournament, but his body did not comply.
He withdrew just before the first tee on Thursday.

This opened up the field a little more for everyone else. Some first-timers and lowly-favored golfers emerged as early leaders, but the test of time proved overbearing for their new life atop the leaderboard.

Slowly but surely, the elite group of golfers crept up the standings. After a series of good shots, bad shots and many in between, two golfers stood at 9-under with no holes left to play. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose replayed the 18th, whimsically named “Holly,” in a playoff to determine the green jacket’s dimensions.

A Rose shot into the trees and a Garcia one-putt delivered a first major victory to Sergio. As a Spanish-speaker, it was fun to hear, “Vamo, Sergio! Vaaamanos!” in the background of the tightly-buttoned Georgia town.

Though the tournament did have some element of excitement — a playoff, new names and a new champion — America did not respond accordingly.

Final round viewership dropped a massive 11% from last year’s comfortable 3-stroke victory. It wasn’t for lack of competition. It wasn’t for a lack of big names atop the leaderboard. Then what was it? Nobody really knows, to be honest.

Some people say it was under-advertised, but anyone who is willing to watch golf for hours on end knows the Masters is the first week of April.

Some “experts” have even suggested that the first wave of nice weather in the northern states pushed people outside, away from their televisions.

In lieu of a buzz about the tournament, the tabloids and investigative efforts have focused on the “lefty” and long-time legend, Phil Mickelson.

Just like a midafternoon soap, there are a lot of moving parts and revolving faces in this scandal, which only makes it all the juicier. Phil Mickelson is a known gambler and a known loser on those bets.

However, nobody knew the extent of his debts. It’s reported that Mickelson is millions of dollars in the hole, and when people are millions of dollars in debt, they do stupid things.

Some people lie to people they care about, some people falsify their records, and some people loan out huge sums of money to insider-trading Wall Street titans. Can you guess which model Phil chose? If you guessed Option C, you’ve got it.

Mickelson’s Wall Street buddy’s name is Billy Walters, and just this past Friday, he was found guilty by a federal jury of fraud counts in the double digits and conspiracy of insider trading.

Where does Lefty fit into the mix? Well, when you’re millions of dollars out to rich and powerful people, your judgment becomes nearsighted.

The alleged insider trading scandal, which proved to be extremely lucrative for Walters and earned him $100 million over just six years, featured a relationship between Walters and the former chairman of Dean Foods Company, Tom Davis. Davis repeatedly informed Walters of projected ups and down in the company’s stock, on which Walters cashed in.

Mickelson, confronted with large gambling debts to Billy Walters, was coerced into loaning $2 million to Walters to profit from these illegal tips.

His investment multiplied one and a half times to three million, which, according to sources, was still short of Mickelson’s massive debts.

My first instinct was to feel bad for the golfer. Gambling is an addiction, and even good people allow addictions to lead them down criminal paths, but research and word of mouth has led me in a more cynical direction.

As a casual fan of golf, it is easy to interpret Phil purely from the quick shots on TV of him smiling, waving and competing in the gentleman’s game. Among the inner circles, however, there is another man under that perfectly coifed hair, one that the living room viewer doesn’t know.

At a previous PGA championship, a reporter observed out loud, “Man, the fans here love Phil.” Without hesitation, an unnamed pro retorted, “They don’t know him the way we do.”

This dual personality that Mickelson exudes is no coincidence. Another reporter commented, “There are a bunch of pros who think he and his whole smiley, happy face are a fraud. They think he’s preening and insincere.”

So why be like this? Easy answer: endorsements. Mickelson is the model golfing man, the image-perfect family man, almost to a strange extent. The golf industry has a ton of money in it and Lefty has the skills to pay the bills.

A third reporter added more insight on the matter: “Phil Mickelson literally has no friends out there. He annoys everybody.” My personal favorite Mickelson anecdote, maybe because it reminds me of FUBAR in Saving Private Ryan, is his affectionately dubbed nickname on the links: “FIGJAM — Fuck, I’m good, just ask me.”

Let me be clear, I don’t have a personal agenda against this man, and I totally respect his golf game.

It’s just worth noting when these superstar athletes who have their world in their hands are total phony assholes.

I mean, even “Tin Cup” designed its villain to look exactly like Mickelson. That can’t be an outright coincidence.

There are plenty of athletes who are the most charitable and kind people and constantly give back to the society and the game that puts them on such a high pedestal. Phil Mickelson is not one of those people.

See you at Augusta next year, Phil.