Waiting on the 2nd tee the discussion invariably was of the Open. In essence the argument was on who’s camp you were in. It was not Tiger v Phil Mickelson, but rather Phil Mickelson v Tom Watson. It was agreed (by some) that Tom Watson was ‘a real gentleman’ whereas Phil Mickleson was a bit arrogant, cocky and fundamentally too ‘smiley’.
“He doesn’t look like he suffers enough” said someone.
It became a theme of the round after that “What would Tom do?”. It seemed to have a profound effect as in the round we let a junior 2 ball though and waited for a green to clear before we drove off. Ah, the power of Tom.
This prompted me to do a little research on Tom. I had read that he had done at least one good thing in Kansas City so I looked for more tales. For people who don’t know Tom Watson had resigned from the ‘ultra-restrictive’ Kansas City Country Club to protest the club’s blackballing of Jewish tax-preparation tycoon Henry Bloch. Although Watson is not Jewish, his wife, Linda, and their two children are. Watson was quoted as saying that his conscience had forced him to resign “out of respect for my family—my wife, my children and myself.”
Well done Tom.
Then I read that Tom had been a member of this Country Club that had secret membership that seemed to be discriminatory for many, many years. So, why did Tom wait until a Jewish millionaire friend was rejected before he spoke out?
I looked for more Country Clubs Tom had resigned from or criticised because of perceived racist or religious discrimination. I was disappointed. I read that earlier Tom had said that people should “chill out” and that private clubs had the right to choose their members.
I found other reports of Tom and controversy though. Apparently at the 1993 Ryder Cup pre-match dinner Sam Torrance picked up a programme and in a gesture of camaraderie walked over to ask Tom Watson for his autograph. Tom refused. He said that he didn’t want his players bothered by autograph hunters.
This seems as childish as the report of the 1969 Ryder Cup captain Eric Brown telling his players not to look for American balls in the rough.
He doesn’t seem to be popular with everyone; Los Angeles Times columnist Larry Stewart called Watson a “backstabber,” while Jonathan Rand of the hometown Kansas City Star settled for “stuffed shirt.”
Watson criticised Bill Murray for inappropriate antics in a charity Pro-Am.
He managed to get Gary McCord the sack for on-air quips by sending a handwritten demand to CBS director and producer Frank Chirkinian to “get rid of him, now.”
In a positive article John Garrity describes him; “Watson always seeks the middle ground. He likes Rush Limbaugh……….”
Tom said of Tiger Woods, “I feel that he has not carried the same stature as other great players like Jack Nickolas, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson or the Hogans, in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course. You can grant that of a young person that has not been out here for awhile. But I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown.”
Tom Watson is a real old-fashioned, 18th century gentleman. He is a man from a different age. A man with real Victorian values. It’s no wonder he’s so popular with so many golf club members around the world – including Bargoed.
Phil Mickelson on the other hand is young and wore a bleeper during the 1999 U.S. Open when his wife Amy was expecting the couple’s first child (“Wouldn’t be allowed in Bargoed”)
In an article on Mickelson ArtSpander says “It bothers some that Mickelson plays without a scowl, waving at the fans who yell his name, eating up the approval…..Phil is outwardly gracious when asked about Tiger’s success, affirming him as the world No. 1. He’s agreed that, in the previous five months, with Woods not around, golf was poorer in his absence.
His personality is pretty well summed up in ‘Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post ‘:
“Without a doubt Mickelson is the most approachable star at Sheshan. When he hits a good shot he rewards fans’ applause by smiling or tipping his cap. When he goes through the crowd, if you put out your hand he’ll even give a ‘high-five.’ (“Wouldn’t happen in Bargoed”)
* first published 17/7/2010