By Aaron Hutchins - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 0 Comments
By Colby Cosh, Ryan Mallough and Jamie Weinman - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 1:11 PM - 0 Comments
Rory McIlroy now with Nike, Obama’s brother enters politics and Zero Dark Thirty Oscar controversy
While Kate, duchess of Cambridge, gamely called her first formal portrait “amazing” and “brilliant,” critics compared Paul Emsley’s work, now hanging in London’s National Portrait Gallery, to North Korea’s mawkish propaganda portraits and even the soft-focus Twilight films.
Rebelle with a cause
It’s been a wild ride for Quebec filmmaker Kim Nguyen, 38. Last week, War Witch (Rebelle), his intimate drama about an African child soldier, received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. And this week War Witch, made for a modest budget of $3.8 million, topped the list of movies honoured by the newly created Canadian Screen Awards with 12 nominations, outstripping larger productions such as Midnight’s Children, Goon and Cosmopolis. Shot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nguyen’s film features a stunning performance from Rachel Mwanza, who was discovered as a homeless street kid in Kinshasa.
The worst kept secret in golf was unveiled this week when Nike announced it signed top PGA golfer Rory McIlroy to a reported $200-million contract. The deal makes McIlroy one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, and gives Nike the rights to golf’s two biggest and most marketable stars (including No. 2 ranked Tiger Woods). Woods was believed to be recruiting McIlroy for Nike while the two were paired together during the PGA playoffs last fall, and seen to be getting along well. The 23-year-old McIlroy will sport the swoosh for the first time at this weekend’s HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi. Continue…
By Tamsin McMahon - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Many happy returns to some familiar faces
J.K. Rowling may be the most commercially successful author in recent memory, but in the lead-up to her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, skeptics questioned her writing chops. It’s one thing to earn a billion dollars charming children with teenage wizards. It’s quite another to penetrate the cloistered world of the literary elite. The fuss turned out to be for naught. The Casual Vacancy has been a critical success: the Guardian declared Rowling a storyteller “on a par with R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle and P.D. James.” Any 10-year-old could have told you that.
Putting the Sheen on cable TV
Writers for CBS’s Two and A Half Men made sure Charlie Sheen would never return when his character was hit by a train, and his body “exploded like a balloon full of meat.” Leave it to cable TV to see the potential in Sheen’s penchant for drug-fuelled rants and rehab stints. Sheen’s Anger Management debuted on FX in June. Ratings were respectable enough for the network to commit to a further 90 episodes. Let’s hope they left some downtime in Sheen’s schedule for a possible relapse. Maybe Ashton Kutcher will be free.
An inauspicious homecoming
Visit a prison and you’ll find inmates who claim to be wrongly convicted. But few can proclaim their innocence quite like Conrad Black. Since his release from a Florida prison in May he has made the rounds of British and Canadian media to declare himself the victim of the “fascistic conveyor belt of the corrupt prison system.” If there is one decision Black seems to regret, it’s the one to renounce his Canadian citizenship for a British life peerage. Eleven years after he termed his exit from Canada as his “last and most consistent act of dissent,” Black is back home on a one-year visa and fighting to keep his membership in Order of Canada. Missing Tim Hortons coffee, m’lord? Continue…
By Nicholas Köhler, Kate Lunau, Chris Sorensen and Michael Petrou - Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
Kathie Lee makes viewers cringe, François Hollande caps CEO pay, and a bad week for the Biebs
Justin Bieber had a very bad week. First the Canadian pop star was accused of hitting a photographer in Los Angeles. Next, he was concussed after running into a glass wall on a Paris stage (and blacked out backstage for 15 seconds). And in Norway, fans mobbed him in the streets of Oslo, fainting, pushing, and forcing Bieber to take to Twitter to beg his teen fans to “please listen to the police.” No one was hurt, but none of this will change the opinion Bieber expressed to GQ magazine last month: “You can’t trust anybody.”
Justice for Egypt?
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades before the Arab Spring forced him from power last February, has been sentenced to life in prison for his complicity in the deaths of protesters rising against him. This wasn’t enough for Mubarak’s many opponents, who wanted the death penalty and took to the streets in anger when they didn’t get it. Many are also furious at the acquittals given to top police chiefs allegedly involved in the killings. More than a year after the Arab Spring, the military still decides who will be punished and who will not. They were willing to sacrifice Mubarak, but not his henchmen.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 2:03 PM - 0 Comments
Book by Hank Haney
Between 2004 and 2010, few people spent more time with Tiger Woods than his swing coach, Hank Haney. After hours on the driving range, day after day, teacher and student would spend hours more inside Tiger’s Florida mansion, dissecting their sessions. Many nights, Haney stayed for supper. “When we were watching television after dinner, he’d sometimes go to the refrigerator to get a sugar-free popsicle,” he writes. “But he never offered me one or ever came back with one.”
In those days, of course, Tiger was still the god of golf, his serial sex addiction a closely guarded secret. Haney insists he had no idea that his star pupil was leading a double life. But in hindsight, those popsicles offered a tiny clue. “It was that quality of paying attention only to his own needs that was so central to his ability to win,” Haney continues. “Winning gave him permission to remain a flawed and in some ways immature person.”
Haney is hardly perfect, either. Once a core member of Tiger’s inner circle, he chose to write his tell-all memoir only after Woods’s world collapsed—and to release it during Masters week, the biggest tournament of the year. And at times, he seems even more petty and self-absorbed than his former friend, poring through stats to prove that he was the best coach Woods ever had. “He’s become less of a golfer,” Haney concludes, “and he’s never going to be the same again.”
By Anne Kingston - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6:30 AM - 7 Comments
If women exploited their sex appeal when climbing the corporate ladder, they would be way ahead of men
The British sociologist Catherine Hakim is no academic wallflower. More than a decade ago, her “preference” theory positing that personal choices, not gender discrimination, governed women’s involvement and advancement in the labour market, won praise, sneers and influenced social policy. Now she’s back tweaking nipples with her new book, Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, which argues that “erotic capital” can be as professionally useful as a university degree, that women have been conditioned not to exploit their attractiveness for economic beneﬁt and that prostitution is a rational, lucrative female career choice.
Predictably, a book published in 2011 by a respected scholar (a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics no less!) that contains such sentences as “Becoming an ‘idle’ full-time housewife is a modern utopian dream for most women” and bills itself “a truly feminist manifesto” has hit a cultural nerve: debated on the BBC, discussed in the Wall Street Journal, and pilloried by female columnists with attractive head shots.
Hakim is brashly wading into contentious terrain on several fronts: the ongoing intellectual war questioning the sexual revolution’s benefit to women; the continuing puzzling out of workplace gender inequity; and the new academic focus on the “beauty premium,” as explored by economist Daniel Hamermesh in Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful, which reveals tall men are paid the most, fat women the least.
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
I grew up watching the Masters with Dad on TV. Actually going was another thing.
I’ve never drawn up a bucket list, for doing so would only remind Death that he eventually needs to claim me. But going to the Masters—as I did last week— would have ranked right up there with: a) seeing the Great Pyramids and b) sealing the inventor of Auto-Tune inside the Great Pyramids.
I grew up watching the Masters—sprawled on the floor as my dad cheered and cursed and snored in his chair. I remember Jack in 1986 and Tiger in 1997 and Greg Norman falling short in what felt like every Masters from 1942 to 2005. Plus, going to the tournament in person would save me from having to endure the TV guys going on about the damn azaleas. Such fragrant majesty!
Augusta National has so meticulously crafted its image as a place of tranquil, otherworldly beauty that it’s surprising to discover the club exists on our plane of reality, near strip malls and Waffle Houses and the like. I had anticipated moats and centaurs.
By John Intini - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 9:07 AM - 3 Comments
He’s plunged in the rankings, but Woods is still the undisputed fan favourite
A couple of weeks ago, hoping to catch a glimpse of “the old Tiger” Woods, fans descended on Bay Hill, the famous golf course in Orlando, Fla., for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Whenever Woods set up on the practice green or the driving range, it seemed everyone from preschoolers to guys who looked like they could have been around in the 1920s when Bobby Jones was the golfer to beat stood wide-eyed and still. Even when he was 10 strokes off the lead going into the final round, thousands of fans, many in their Sunday best—a red golf shirt, Tiger’s trademark—lined the edges of the fairways, eight rows deep in some spots. They all seemed to be clinging to the prospect that here, at a tournament Woods had won six times, he might finally put an end to his 16-month drought.
There were certainly flashes of greatness—a miraculous iron shot over trees from deep in the rough on the ninth hole; a 55-foot birdie putt on 18—but those looking for vintage Tiger came away disappointed. Instead, they saw the same inconsistent golfer who hasn’t taken home a title since the trashing of his Cadillac Escalade in November 2009. The fender bender that would lead to the shattering of Woods’s squeaky clean image, and the stranger-than-fiction scandal that included everything from porn stars to a Perkins waitress, and six weeks in sex rehab. Woods posted a never-in-contention -1 at Bay Hill, finishing in a tie for 24th. And his final tune-up for this week’s Master’s only fuelled the critics, who question if the 35-year-old, who has slipped to No. 7 in the world, will ever dominate golf again.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 5:17 PM - 0 Comments
P.K. Subban’s winning streak, Hugo Chávez weighs in on everything, and what LiLo can learn from Blago
Old hat, new hat trick
It was a typical week at the office for Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban. Last Thursday, he was hacked by an established NHL star, Vincent Lecavalier. On Friday he scored a goal against the New York Rangers and was challenged to a fight. On Saturday, he was disparaged on national TV by Don Cherry, and on Sunday he scored the first hat trick by a rookie defenceman in the 101-year history of les glorieux. The ebullient Subban is driving his opponents to distraction—not to mention a few prigs in the hockey media. But with each passing game, it’s becoming clearer that P.K.’s detractors will have to adjust to him rather than vice versa. As former Habs GM Bob Gainey put it: “Some of those people should just shut up and play against him.”
Hugo still boss
An autocrat’s work is never done. In between signing trade agreements with China, including a deal involving Venezuela’s state-run oil company, and an extended $4-billion line of credit for its capital of Caracas, Latin American strongman Hugo Chávez found time last week to accuse America of planning to sabotage his re-election bid in 2012, censure the West for its air strikes on Libya—and attack the boom in breast implants in his own country. He pointed the finger at doctors, who “convince some women that if they don’t have some big bosoms, they should feel bad.”
By Ken MacQueen, Colby Cosh and Maclean's staff - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 10:23 AM - 0 Comments
The Donald for prez in 2012?
Leave it to Bieber—or else
Surprise Best New Artist winner Esperanza Spalding discovered the downside to beating out a shoo-in at the Grammys. The jazz singer’s voluminous hair did little to endear her to vengeful Justin Bieber fans, who edited her Wikipedia page to paint a curious picture: her middle name is Justin—no, Quesadilla; she is (to paraphrase) mentally challenged, and she should die in a hole. The Bieb was more gracious, congratulating his rival warmly when he ran into her backstage. Still, Spalding may have more in common with a Canadian act that fared better that night: Arcade Fire. She sang at Barack Obama’s White House, while the Montreal indie darlings played shows for his presidential campaign.
Hair today, who knows tomorrow
Donald Trump electrified the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, speculating in a surprise appearance about a Republican run for the presidency. “We need a competitive person,” Trump told a divided audience. “If I run and if I win, this country will be respected again.” The real estate mogul laid out an anti-gun-control, anti-Obamacare stance, adding a pro-life element that has only recently become a feature of his political bloviations. He also provoked supporters of conservatives’ perennial favourite, libertarian congressman Ron Paul, by remarking that “Paul cannot get elected. Sorry.” Trump says he will make his final decision on whether to run in June.
You can’t go home
When former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf announced he was returning from a self-imposed exile to possibly run for office, he faced a Catch-22: he’d either suffer an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda or arrest for treason. Now there’s another obstacle: a warrant for his arrest in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. On Saturday, a Pakistani court said an investigation revealed Musharraf did not provide adequate protection for the former PM in 2007 as she campaigned against him for the presidency. Musharraf, who denies any involvement, allegedly knew of plans to kill her but failed to alert authorities. Bhutto, of course, was killed by al-Qaeda weeks after her own return following years in self-imposed exile.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 1 Comment
A new study suggests that Nike was right to stick with its troubled endorser
Staying loyal to a major endorser even as he or she makes headlines for marital infidelity may pay off, according to a recent paper published by Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. Nike’s decision to stick with Tiger Woods, despite his sex scandal, led to a profit of $1.6 million in golf ball sales, the research found. By contrast, the sports-gear giant would have lost as much as $22 million by ditching the golfer like other big companies, such as Gatorde, AT&T and Accenture did.
The tarnishing of Woods’s image is thought to have cost the golf ball industry $7.5 million, and it did take a bite out of Nike’s bottom line, turning away some 105,000 golf ball buyers worth $1.3 million in sales. But considering that Woods is credited with converting an estimated 4.5 million customers to Nike over a 10-year endorsement campaign, the shedding of a few angry consumers wasn’t worth an ugly breakup.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
Hollywood is refusing to forgive Mel Gibson, Woods blamed golf for his problems
He spared nothing in a series of secretly recorded aural assaults aimed at his girlfriend. Women and
African-Americans bore the brunt of his bug-eyed rage. So far, Hollywood is refusing to forgive. Even his cameo in “The Hangover” remake—however pathetic a shot at redemption—was axed after a revolt by the film’s cast.
Goldman Sachs’s paltry $550-million fine to settle civil fraud charges was widely trumpeted as a victory for CEO Blankfein, unapologetic defender of Wall Street’s most repellent practices. His firm has also been accused of betting against clients, and of hiding Athens’s debt problems—“God’s work,” as Blankfein unforgettably once labelled it.
By Colin Campbell - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 10:40 AM - 1 Comment
Insurance brokers say in the past few years there has been a marked rise in the number of firms seeking to guard against losses stemming from misbehaving spokespeople
The scandals that hit athletes Tiger Woods and more recently Wayne Rooney sent a loud warning to companies that pay millions of dollars for big-name endorsements: no pitchman is immune to embarrassing and costly meltdowns. For many firms anxious to avoid a marketing black eye, the answer is “disgrace insurance.” Insurance brokers say in the past few years there has been a marked rise in the number of firms seeking to guard against losses stemming from misbehaving spokespeople, reports the Independent.
Disgrace insurance can cover lost sales and lost ad campaign expenses (Rooney was dumped from Coca-Cola ads this year following reports that he cheated on his pregnant wife with a prostitute). It can also cover crisis management fees incurred from the fallout of Woods-like marketing messes. The policies cost as much as one per cent of the amount being insured. But with tens of millions of dollars on the line, firms are finding there is such a thing as bad publicity.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 3, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Björk versus Canada, Microsoft’s founder sues just about everyone, and Brian Orser exacts sweet revenge
He plays for Queen and country
Taking a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook, a buff British PM David Cameron went body boarding during holidays in Cornwall. He’d urged Britons to aid tourism by vacationing at home. While en vacances, his wife, Samantha, delivered their fourth child, Florence, another economic boost.
By M.J. Stone - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Swing coach Sean Foley has made believers out of golf’s young stars. That gets people talking.
Ten years ago, on a day in early April, a dozen coaches were gathered inside the Glen Abbey academy in Oakville, Ont., for a golf instructors’ seminar. Situated near the 10th tee of the famed course, the room offered a panorama of the sloping fairway beyond. To start things off, participants were asked to introduce themselves and say a few words about their goals. When Foley’s turn arrived, he cleared his throat. “In 10 years’ time,” he said, “I want to be the swing coach to five of the top 50 ranked golfers in the world.”
Everyone burst into laughter. Although the 26-year-old Foley was a distinguished enough instructor of Canadian junior golfers, his resumé with PGA Tour professionals was non-existent. No one believed his cachet as a junior coach could translate into a job with an established tour player. And with only a handful of Canadians on the PGA Tour, what were the odds that one of Foley’s junior players would make it to the big leagues?
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 2:40 PM - 4 Comments
How an A-list doctor, whose patients include Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez, wound up on the wrong side of the law
The price sounds steep—$3,500, plus expenses, for a house call—but for the kind of people seeking Dr. Anthony Galea’s help, it’s chump change. New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez used his services, as did his on-again-off-again girlfriend Madonna, and Swedish soccer star and Calvin Klein underwear model Freddie Ljungberg, per a well-placed source. Tiger Woods flew him to Florida five or six times—business class, naturally. According to an affidavit filed in court when the RCMP searched Galea’s offices in mid-October, seeking evidence of performance-enhancing drugs, the 51-year-old doctor treated 23 pro-athletes in eight different American cities over a nine-week period last summer. During the last decade, hundreds more from the NFL, NHL, CFL, NBA, major league baseball, track and field, and beyond, have beaten a path to his unassuming clinic, now located near Pearson International Airport, seeking to ease their aches and injuries. And even after Tony Galea’s name has been dragged through the mud for months, fingered as the latest sports “Dr. Feelgood,” the calls still keep coming. When David Beckham tore his Achilles tendon in March, shattering his World Cup dream, he reached out to Galea, looking for a miracle. The doctor turned him away.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 3:33 PM - 3 Comments
Tiger Woods forced to explain himself for attending Nickelback concert
Just how bad can embattled get? Today, Tiger Woods was asked to explain his appearance at an Orlando Nickelback concert, where he partied backstage after the show without his wife Elin Nordegren, who is reportedly in Sweden with the kids. “Couple of band members are friends of mine so I went,” he told a news conference before complaining he was criticized for the appearance. Woods is said to be a big fan of the Canadian band, but we wonder what he thinks of their sexually explicit lyrics and their promotion of promiscuity.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 2 Comments
Good News, Bad News
A week in the life of Stephen Harper
Within four heady days the Prime Minister had accepted embattled junior minister Helena Guergis’s resignation; welcomed Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger to 24 Sussex Dr.; caught the band’s Ottawa concert with son Ben; then jetted down to Washington for a nuclear summit with Obama. Such is politics—being, to quote Nickelback, a Leader of Men. By week’s end, will the PM be a political Rockstar, or will he have Something unsavoury—a foot, an apology?—in [his] Mouth?
A new chapter
The online book juggernaut Amazon was granted approval this week to open a distribution centre in Canada. Canadian booksellers decried the move, arguing that allowing the foreign-owned retailer threatens to undercut Canada’s cultural industry. But Amazon says it will invest $20 million in Canada, including $1.5 million on cultural events and awards, and promote more Canadian books internationally. More importantly, the move stands to benefit both Canadian publishers and Canadian consumers with better prices and more options. A little competition is nothing to fear.
In the Bank of Canada’s latest quarterly business survey there was plenty of cause for optimism. Canadian executives say they plan to hire more workers, boost investment and raise prices to meet growing demand for their goods in the next year. Meanwhile, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcies reports that bankruptcies fell in January for the fourth straight month, while the country’s trade surplus widened in February to its highest level since the beginning of the recession. This all comes on top of solid GDP growth. No doubt about it—Canada’s roaring recovery is here to stay.
Workers at a Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen went back to work this week after a five-day strike over company plans to cut back their free beer rations from three bottles a day to one, which must be consumed at lunch in the company cafeteria. Workers agreed to sit down with management and come up with a temporary solution to the dispute. No matter how this brouhaha is resolved, the new drinking policy may not be such a bad idea. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that having one or two drinks a day can reduce the risk of heart disease in young adults.
The family guy
What started as a golf tournament—all but consumed by the prodigal return of the adulterous Tiger Woods—ended with the triumph of devoted family man Phil Mickelson, who won his third green jacket at the Masters. While Woods had been away from golf dealing with a sex scandal fallout, Mickelson faced his share of distractions too. Both his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, and he dedicated his victory to them and his family. Mickelson’s win provided a welcome narrative shift and a nice break from talk about Tiger, who was back to his old habits on the course, yelling and flipping clubs in anger, even pouting over his fourth place finish. Sometimes, nice guys do finish first.
The Bad news
Dave Taylor, the former Alberta Liberal leadership contender, has quit the party to sit as an independent, saying he’s “lost confidence” in his one-time rival David Swann’s “abilities as a leader” and calling the party “invisible” and “irrelevant.” If the Alberta Liberals ever had a chance to grow the party, now would be it: Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Alliance seems poised to cut the Progressive Conservative vote under Ed Stelmach’s moribund premiership, leaving an in for the Grits. Well, don’t count on it. Long encumbered by backbiting, this is yet another instance of bad Alberta Liberal party politics. That’s bad for democracy in a province that, with 40 years of Tory rule, has become a one-party state.
All news fit to bleep
Since the New York Times began broadcasting video of its morning news meeting across the Internet, some of its highest-ranking editors have been seen to utter inaccuracies. On just the feed’s second day, executive editor Bill Keller said that Britain had thrown “the head of Mossad,” Israel’s intelligence service, out of the country “in retribution for the Israelis having assassinated a Hamas militant in Dubai.” But the Brits hadn’t accused Israel of the hit, and the Times hadn’t confirmed whether the diplomat they’d ejected was the Israeli London spy chief. “This is why I went into print rather than TV,” Keller wrote to his paper’s ombudsman, explaining today’s accelerated news delivery: “The deadline is always.”
Protests against Thailand’s coalition government turned violent last weekend, killing 21 and threatening to send the country spiralling into crisis. In Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, 83 people were killed during an anti-government uprising that saw the president flee the capital. The incidents leave dark stains on two countries with histories of political instability. But there are signs the worst may be over. In Thailand, the head of the army ruled out using further force to stop protesters. Kyrgyzstan’s president said he would resign if his safety and his family’s safety could be guaranteed. Cooler heads must prevail.
This week, KFC introduced the Double Down sandwich, a savoury creation consisting of two deep-fried chicken fillets rather than a bun, and with bacon, cheese and sauce as filling. All told, it contains an alarming 1,380 mg of salt (more than half the recommended daily allowance). Then again, if you’re the type who’d eat this beast, you probably don’t care too much about your health anyway.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 3 Comments
He was lost, but now he is, like, found, and fully cured. And he is coming to help you.
Are you troubled? Have you hit rock bottom? Do not fear, mortal—for assistance is on its way.
Tiger Woods is coming to help you.
Forget about how he performs at the Masters or the year’s other golf majors. What matters is that a 40-day stint in rehab has completely cured Tiger of his horrible illness. He no longer suffers from the dreaded Having Sex With Pretty Ladies disease. In fact, he’s so cured that he is now ready to tackle your problems.
Speaking at his first press conference since, well, you know—and referring to reporters by their nicknames and, in the case of one lucky scribe, as “my bro”—Woods strived to demonstrate that he is a changed man. He said things like, “It’s not about the championships—it’s about how you live your life.” (This would have been a laugh line to the Tiger Woods of a year ago, just as it will likely be to the Tiger Woods of a year from now.) And he spoke in the coded, wounded parlance of the rehabbed.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, April 12, 2010 at 4:29 PM - 14 Comments
The gods of golf decided to go for cheap melodrama on Sunday, letting Phil Mickelson walk away from the field and take a third Masters as his cancer-fighting wife Amy looked on. Well, maybe we shouldn’t credit it to the gods, but to Mickelson’s all-around game, which only Tiger Woods can match at times when his morale and concentration aren’t shot to hell.
Insofar as fate or divine intervention had anything to do with Lefty’s win, they seemed to be against it. He had an extremely makeable birdie putt on the 2nd hole, but on his backswing a stamen from a pine tree plopped directly in the path of his ball. This was creepy, as Bill Simmons would say, on a Blair Witch level. As Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist summoned their formidable intellectual powers to the task of figuring out what the hell happened, CBS cut to a wide shot of the hole. The day was sunny, without enough wind to stir a puff of pipesmoke; there were, and are, no trees within 70 or 80 yards of the hole. The offending vegetation appeared to have dropped vertically out of a clear sky. 81-year-old Dan Jenkins, the Twitterizing dean of the world’s golf writers, quipped “I’ve never seen that before, but this is only my 60th Masters.”
If Mickelson had lost by one shot, everyone would be making a big deal of the incident today; since it betokened nothing and is already being forgotten, let it serve an instructive lesson in how superstitions come about. But let’s also note that a stamen is the male reproductive organ of a plant. Apparently Phil has less trouble getting distracted by such things than some other golfers [rimshot].
I never liked the old Phil Mickelson much. Somehow, and I’m not at all sure this was ever a fair perception, he seemed to combine smugness, haphazard stewardship of his talent, and weak nerve; that he was liked by American galleries from the beginning only made matters worse. It was a source of wholly non-patriotic delight to me when fellow “lefty” Mike Weir beat him to a major-championship victory. (Weir, Mickelson, and New Zealander Sir Bob Charles, the only lefty swingers to win majors, are all right-handed in everyday life; the world is still waiting for a truly lefty Lefty.)
But in the face of the Tiger era, Mickelson buckled down, worked hard, and found another gear, without sacrificing his family, his cheerfulness, or his relationship with the fans. With each passing year he looks more impressive, more like someone who stands as a living rebuke to Woods—to say nothing of the Sergio Garcias, the David Duvals, and the Notah Begays, the players who had the innate gifts to match Mickelson’s tournament record but haven’t closed the deal. It’s doubly endearing that Lefty has been quietly trying to minimize the bathos of his wife’s and mother’s cancer diagnoses, subtly discouraging reporters from whispering at him as though they were huddled in the rear pews of a funeral Mass. (Journalists don’t equate cancer with death; they think it’s much worse.)
Before the fourth-round tee time, I heard some mike-wielding goofball actually approach Mickelson and attempt a lurid thumbnail sketch of a tumour-ravaged, vomit-flecked Amy feebly rising from her sickbed to watch Sunday’s golf from home. Mickelson, forgiving and full of pep, pointed out that the Mrs. had joined him in Augusta and would be in the gallery that very day. And so she was. She looked great.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 5:27 AM - 2 Comments
The Masters news tonight is full of Phil Mickelson’s astonishing Saturday hulkout on holes 13, 14, and 15, where he went eagle, eagle, birdie-that-came-within-18-inches-of-another-eagle to carve five strokes off Lee Westwood’s lead in about the time it takes to eat a bowl of soup. It’s easy to overlook that Westwood is actually still the 54-hole leader at 12-under. Mickelson’s sequence was like a grenade going off in the middle of a tournament that is, otherwise, being decided on the greens—i.e., the most carefully tended real estate, square inch for square inch, that exists anywhere on planet Earth. (I once interviewed an Augusta greenskeeper who had learned turf science at Alberta’s Fairview College; he was bound by non-disclosure rules so strict that Augusta employees can’t even talk about how many Augusta employees there are, but I was left with little doubt that he and his colleagues are intimate with those greens down to the level of individual shoots of grass.)
Westwood is playing steady, confident, error-free golf. It’s a shame that Masters.com hasn’t preserved video of Westwood’s second shot at the par-4 7th. Off the tee, he put the ball in light rough with a stand of trees between himself and the hole, as many do there; most golfers most days would hem and haw over the ball and consult their caddies for a half-hour, especially with a green jacket in the balance, but Westwood stepped coolly to the ball (“Whoa, what? He’s hitting?”) and just schwacked it nonchalantly through the pines and onto the green, stirring nary a needle. He has apparently decided that the order of the day is no fear, no contemplation, no overthinking.
I had high hopes for the Lee Westwood-Ian Poulter battle that Friday’s round seemed to set up; the two Englishmen, the cut-rate James Bond and the eccentric fashion-victim, would have made an excellent Sunday pairing. Alas, Poulter carded a 74 on Saturday. He might still be reading the greens better than anybody, and a lot of men win majors by keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs, but he doesn’t seem like a natural candidate to rally from six strokes behind.
Indeed, nobody does; 18 of the last 19 Masters champions have come from the fourth round’s final pairing, and Westwood and Mickelson will wake up with margins of four and three strokes, respectively, over their nearest competitors—the sturdy Korean bantam K.J. Choi and a certain philandering Cablinasian who, despite his high placing, seems to be having a tough weekend.
By Anne Kingston - Friday, April 9, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 40 Comments
She has everything to gain. He has everything to lose.
If the past three months are any indication, 2010 will be a red-letter year for marital inﬁdelity—as in scarlet A for adultery. Between mistresses spilling their secrets and philanderers walking the new perp walk of shame, the age-old adultery script is being rewritten. If Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter, was published today, the scorned female protagonist would have a blog, a book deal, even a reality TV show. And that disgracing A she was forced to wear? It would be emblazoned on Reverend Dimmesdale, her higher-profile partner in sin.
This week, Tiger Woods, currently the prime attraction in the new Cheaters Hall of Shame, submitted himself to another round of atonement at the Masters before his return to the links. Fielding reporters’ questions, he admitted “what I’ve done has been terrible to my family” and spoke of the “pain and damage I’ve caused.” It was a reversal of his stance when news of his infidelity broke last November: “This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way,” he said after text messages intercepted by his wife, Elin Nordegren, led to him crashing his SUV outside their Florida house.
Then an unrelenting “mistress” cavalcade —15 at last count—revealed the world’s best golfer had turned his marriage into a public thruway: he risked bringing STDs home by having unprotected sex and, the ultimate indignity, he invited a porn star into his marital bed when Elin was away. The clichéd lines he used to lure them—his marriage was loveless, his wife didn’t like sex—only amplified the betrayal. Within weeks, Woods’s reputation as a stalwart family man and disciplined professional was in ruins. Not only had he violated his marital vows but, seemingly as grievously, he had sullied his public who’d bought into his carefully constructed clean-living image. In January, the golfer staged a televised press conference, at which his wife was visibly absent, to grovel. “I was unfaithful, I had affairs, I cheated,” he said. “What I did was unacceptable, and I am the only one to blame.” He then submitted to the requisite rehab for “sexual addiction.” By then the damage had been done: Elin had moved out with their two children, his commercial endorsements were evaporating, and he had spiralled from hero to laughingstock—from Tiger to “Cheetah.”
By Colby Cosh - Friday, April 9, 2010 at 1:35 AM - 11 Comments
In the spirit of Augusta National, maybe we should treat Tiger Woods as just another golfer today. Perhaps we all thought there was something unsavoury about Woods making his return in such a stifling totalitarian atmosphere, with the club refusing to bend its rules about television coverage and policing the galleries for the smallest demonstration of adverse sentiment. But you can’t deny it made for good viewing. The almost hysterical reserve of the broadcasters served to put the focus on Tiger’s golf, which remains exquisite despite his brief vacation.
(The one venue of protest was the sky—even Augusta National can’t control that—where planes hired by pranksters appeared trailing banners that read “TIGER—DID YOU MEAN BOOTYISM” and “SEX ADDICT? YEAH. RIGHT. SURE. ME TOO.” These struck me as disappointingly feeble wisecracks for someone to be spending that kind of money on.)
Woods’ 68 is his best-ever first round at the Masters, even though, unlike some players ahead of him on the leaderboard, his position in the next-to-last threesome on the course forced him deal with increasingly chaotic late-afternoon winds and even a smattering of rain during his time in Amen Corner. This didn’t stop him from making everyone else look helpless. Time and time again he’d swoop in on holes other golfers had all but vandalized and play approach shots that were the equivalent of declaring “THIS is how it’s done here, students.”
He posted two eagles, along with three bogeys that no one could reasonably regard as a sign of “rust”. I was most impressed with the birdie on the par-five 13th, where he played his second shot onto a geometrically perfect spot on the rising back surface of the green and watched it back up to within ten feet of the hole. He literally couldn’t have done that more elegantly if he had the ball on a string (not without teleporting so that he had a different angle on it after it landed, anyway). More often than anyone else, Tiger plays shots that are more impressive, even to a near-total golf ignoramus, than flukily putting the ball directly into the hole would be.
But I’m much more happy about the early tentative vindication for my thesis, developed after Tom Watson’s down-to-the-wire battle for the British Open last year, that there might be no such thing as an old golfer anymore. Why should there be? We have LASIK, a growing buffet of anti-inflammatories, and what amounts to cheap consumer bionics now. There’s probably a golf use for Botox, though I don’t know what it would be. (I’m no pharmacist but I suspect it would kill you if you took enough to keep your head still during your swing.) Watson’s Open run followed mere days after he received a double hip replacement. People joked about this, when he led at Turnberry after the first round, as if it were a liability. They’re bound to stop joking and start booking operating-room time any minute now.
Watson himself declared before the tournament that he is too old to stay in contention on a course as long as Augusta. Fans should be aware that it’s only 3% longer than the Ailsa Course he dominated at Turnberry. But maybe he should be taken at his word and expected to succumb to some upstart punk. Like clubhouse leader Fred Couples—who at 50 has the extremely rare distinction of having outlived two ex-wives—or 52-year-old Sandy Lyle, three strokes behind Couples and two behind Watson, whose game has been in the wilderness almost as long as Watson’s was.
Note, too, that Watson’s Open good-luck charm, British Amateur champ 16-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, is playing at Augusta for the last time before going pro. Manassero shot 71 today, which leaves him T-22nd with Mike Weir and Ernie Els and on pace to make the cut easily. Maybe there’s no such thing as a young golfer either?