Tiger Woods Wins The 2019 Masters!

Masters Golf
In what might be the greatest comeback in sports history, Tiger Woods outlasted a loaded leaderboard to win the 2019 Masters and win his first major in more than a decade.

Tiger did it. He absolutely did it. After five years and major surgery, Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters golf tournament. And despite what you think of him or what he went through, his comeback is noteworthy. It took faith and guts and fortitude and gumption.

So here’s to Tiger. He came back and his comeback is a throwback to when we fell in love with him way back.

Here’s how Sports Illustrated reported the epic win:

“Tiger shot a final-round 70 on Sunday at the Masters to claim his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship, his first since 2008. Woods trailed Francesco Molinari by two shots entering the final day, but used a vintage back-nine to claim the tournament, redemption and a victory many golf fans thought they would never see.”

So you see, on this Good Friday, we look back to the Cross, the Old Rugged Cross, and remember that after death comes life. And for Tiger, after a meteoric rise and a very public and humiliating fall, he too has risen from the dead.

Tiger Woods: Will He Make It All The Way Back?

PGA Championship - Final Round
Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis

Now it seems as if Tiger Woods is always a bridesmaid, and not the bride. 

Tiger didn’t win the 2018 PGA Championship today. Tiger did not win his elusive 15th career major title at the PGA Championship. And Tiger did not sink the shots and the puts and the drives that he needed to hit to come out on top. But Tiger did win the hearts of the fans and he came away encouraged after his best finish at a major in nearly a decade. He lost by two strokes; and he was only one shot off the lead coming down the back nine. And he’s come in 2nd seven times now since coming back from back surgery.  

“The St. Louis fans waited 17 years to see Woods, and he delivered a performance that took golf back in time. Without hitting a fairway on the front nine, Woods cut the four-shot deficit to two. Dialed in on the back nine, he hit his approach to a foot on the 15th hole to get within one shot. The winner, Brooks Koepka, heard the roars from the crowd, all for Woods, and he answered with great shots of his own, finally converting the birdies to pull away.

Amid relentless pandemonium, Koepka ran off three straight birdies to end the front nine and seize control. When he was tied with Adam Scott through 14 holes, with Woods one shot behind, he delivered back-to-back birdies.

The crowd was enormous, louder than anything in golf this side of Augusta National or a Ryder Cup, and Woods looked closer than ever to capping his comeback from four back surgeries with another major.

Even with two bogeys, Woods shot 64 for his lowest final round in a major. He finished at 266, beating by three shots his best 72-hole score in a major.

But, it wasn’t enough. ‘I played hard,” Woods said. “I made a bit of a run. It looks like I’m going to come up a little short.’” http://www.cbc.ca/sports/golf/pga-championship-final-round-tiger-woods-brooks-koepka-1.4782774

And sometimes we all feel that way too, don’t we? We play our best, and live our best, and play our hearts out and give our all; and yet and still we come up short.

This is where the spiritual side of sports comes in. When we come up short, God fills in the gaps and the holes and the cracks so that we can be healthy and whole. We are only complete in Him. We are only victorious in Him. We are only winners in Him. In fact,  we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Thank God. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God that Heaven knew that we would come up short and came to our rescue.

God is still filling in our cracks and covering for us when we fall short. And He does it every time.  God is still giving us bonus “stoppage” time to score a goal and giving us overtime to win the game and giving us extra innings to drive in the winning run. God is still redeeming our lives from corruption and disruption and destruction. Yes, God is still working miracles for us.

Perhaps God will work a miracle for Tiger Woods, on the golf course, and in the course of his life,  too.

Why Didn’t You Watch The 2017 Masters? (It’s A Golf Tournament)

garcia-win

I watch the Masters every year. Well, at least some of it, every year; it’s a tradition for me. So many lessons can be drawn from the game of golf in general, and from the Masters Golf Tournament in specific, that time would fail to detail them all here, but here are a few tidbits.

First, golf is like life and life is like golf. In this tournament and many others like it, you play the same 18 holes each day four days in a row. It sounds monotonous because it is. Life is a combination of proper, principled, daily practices; taken apart or put together they all can be just as monotonous too, but it’s the consistency of living well day in and day out that wins the day.

Second, in golf, the lowest score wins; i.e., you try to make the fewest mistakes and make the most aggressive moves without landing in the rough or plunking into the water. I can certainly relate to that.

Third, in life, you try to live with consistency and accuracy. There are times to drive long and hard, and there are other times to walk lightly and speak softly. Try as I may, when I play golf I try to hit that little white ball really hard and send it very far. But then other times I need not try so hard or to go so far. The tee shot requires you to drive the ball a long way. Conversely, the closer you get to the green and the cup, you need to slow your roll and putt that same little white ball very softly and very slowly into the hole.

I love golf and I love the Masters even more. I can’t play worth I lick, but when I get out on the green and actually drive the ball in the direction I intended it to go, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

Charlie Hoffman and Sergio Garcia were at the top of the leader board and led the tournament and both looked as if they had the victory in the bag. But not so fast; Hoffman found the water on Saturday afternoon and sunk out of sight. Garcia led at the end of the day yesterday, but today he bogeyed on 10 AND 11 and fell out of a tie for first.

In golf it’s you vs. the field. The field is the competition around you and the grassy greens beneath you that stand between you and the victor’s cup. You have no backup to call in; you can’t call time out or take a break; and you can’t take plays off and it not come back to bite you in the butt. It’s all on you, and all eyes are on you. It’s takes mental toughness and physical acumen and a boatload of gumption and determination too.

Yes you have the roar of the crowd when life is a banquet and you birdie, but you also get the silent treatment when you bumble and bogey. That’s why I love golf. You have to learn how to navigate the ups and the downs, the ins and the outs, the highs and the lows, and the sometimes messy, and other times merry stuff in between.

This year’s Masters Golf Tournament was so thrilling, so riveting, and so captivating that I even got my wife to watch. How’s that for a happy marriage!?

And what about the happy outcome:

Sergio Garcia did it! After trying and striving for years, Sergio won in a playoff against his longtime friend Justin Rose. It was one of the best Masters finishes ever, going into OT; yes, it took extra innings for Sergio, the fan favorite this year, to win his first major at his 74th attempt. The joyful and gleeful golfer became the third Spaniard to win the Masters on what would have been his idol, Seve Ballesteros’, 60th birthday.

Gargia Wins Masters

Congrats Sergio!

I’ll Take An Arnold Palmer

1974-arnold-palmer-signed-golf-world-magazine-cover-3

The combination of iced tea and lemonade is known as an “Arnold Palmer.” It’s a tasty blend of sweet and sour and soft and sharp and tart and tangy. And many who don’t like one or the other will like them both combined. It’s like having the best of both. 

“Think about it,” one sports writer said. “You don’t order a ‘Tiger Woods’ or a ‘Jack Nicklaus’ at the bar. You can go up there and order an ‘Arnold Palmer’ in this country — and every waiter and waitress know what the drink is. That’s being in a league of your own.”

Palmer was born Sept. 10, 1929, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four children. His father, Deacon, became the greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club in 1921 and the club pro in 1933.

Palmer joined the PGA Tour in 1955 and won the Canadian Open for the first of his 62 titles. He went on to win four green jackets at Augusta National, along with the British Open in 1961 and 1962 and the U.S. Open in 1960, perhaps the most memorable of his seven majors because it defined his style. You could never count him out.

.Arnold Palmer charged across the golf course and into America’s living rooms with a go-for-broke style that made a country club sport popular for the everyman. At ease with presidents and the public, he was on a first-name basis with both.  Palmer died Sunday in Pittsburgh. He was 87.

President Barack Obama tweeted about Palmer’s death, saying: “Here’s to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold.”

Palmer ranked among the most important figures in golf history, and it went well beyond his seven major championships and 62 PGA Tour wins. His good looks, devilish grin and hard-charging style of play made the elite sport appealing to one and all. And it helped that he arrived about the same time as television moved into most households, a perfect fit that sent golf to unprecedented popularity.

“And that’s why he’s the king.” On the golf course, Palmer was an icon not for how often he won, but the way he did it. Palmer never liked being referred to as “The King,” but the name stuck.

Palmer went head to head with Nicklaus two years later in a U.S. Open, the start of one of golf’s most famous rivalries. It was one-sided. Nicklaus went on to win 18 majors and was regarded as golf’s greatest champion. Palmer won two more majors after that loss, and his last PGA Tour win came in 1973 at the Bob Hope Classic.

 Golf writer Tom Callahan once described the difference between Nicklaus and Palmer this way:

It’s as though God said to Nicklaus, “You will have skills like no other,” then whispered to Palmer, “But they will love you more.”

“I’m not interested in being a hero,” Palmer said, implying that too much was made about his return from cancer. “I just want to play some golf.”  https://www.yahoo.com/news/arnold-palmer-dies-87-made-golf-popular-masses-012931638–spt.html 

And if we compare the game of golf to living life, then we all should just want to live a good one.

The Goofy Game of Golf

Jordan Spieth Swing
Some say that golf is silly and senseless and trivial and trifling and seductive and instructive and a tease and a taunt all rolled up into one, small, white, rubber band of a ball. And such is life.

Golf has some goofy stuff.  Golf has birdies and bogeys, eagles and playing even, irons and Tiger Woods, back greens and Bermuda Grasses. Golf has drivers and putters, the Back Nine and backspin, hooks and holes, strokes and sand traps. In Golf you have Tee shots and short games, bunkers and bad bounces, keeping pace and making par. And it’s all up and down and through and through from the first Tee to the final put.

In golf, you start near the end; the 18th green is nigh near the 1st Tee. In golf, you hope for the best but have to brace for the worst. In golf, you aim for the green but could end up all wet in the water. In golf, you have to push past bad breaks and be moderate after great makes. And if it sounds like I’m describing my life and not the game of golf, I am. I love golf, but most times I’m not real good at it; and I certainly love life, but sometimes I’m not quite good at it.

Golf is like life. It never ceases to amaze and yet is forever afire and ablaze. Golf is like life because it startles and surprises, delights and dismays, disappoints and displays the wonders of God’s love and grace. Golf can astonish and astound, stun and stagger, and shock and shudder you to your very core. Or is that what we say about life? Golf is full of joy and gladness, sunniness and sadness, amazement and fulfillment and everything else in between.

In golf and in life, you have to have hope and fight the good fight of faith and love in spite of loss in order to lay hold on the prize.  In golf and in life, prolific players have missed chip shots, and unsung and unheard of players have hit a hole in one. And there’s no rhyme or reason between the two.

The Masters - Final Round

So here’s to the 2015 Masters Golf Tournament Champion, Jordan Spieth, a 21 year old who tied Tiger’s Record and finished at -18, and at one point set the all-time course record of -19. And he’s only a kid. That’s right; he’s young enough to know how good he is but not quite old enough to know how good he’s got it. He was only three years old when Tiger won at 21 in 1997. And so we have another “Jordan” who could be another prodigy.

Golf is like life and life is like golf. It can be goofy and gaffy, rational and reasonable, predictable and implausible all at once at the same time. When placed next to life, it’s amazing how playing the secular game of golf can be a sacred thing. And some, a small, slight some, realize how similar playing golf and living life really are.

The Master’s Golf Tournament 2015: Just Who Is Jordan Spieth?

jordan_spieth___fist_pump_Master

For starters, he’s a twenty-one year old “kid” who is mastering the masters. Yes folks, the millennials have come of age and they’re come around and they’ve come to stay. I recently wrote about “kids” — not baby goats, but young professionals https://godandsports.net/2015/04/06/kids-these-days/ – and it seems that every time I turn around, the kids have something to say and something to prove. It seems that in any profession and in every sport, from college basketball to professional golf, the kids have not just come, but they’ve “come to.”

Jordan Spieth is making the 2015 Masters look easy. The 21-year-old budding superstar, who finished tied for second at Augusta last year, is on a historic pace after two rounds. He shot a six-under 66 on Friday to move his overall score to 14 under par. Fourteen under par! That’s ridiculous! That’s like leading by fifty,  five minutes into the game. A football game.

But’s it’s not over. It’s only halftime, and we’ve got a lot of golf to go. By comparison, On April 13, 1997, Tiger Woods was also 21 when he won his first major tournament, not coincidentally the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia. Woods’ 72-hole score, an amazing 18-under-par 270, was the lowest in the tournament history and shattered a record of 271 shared by Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd.

By comparison, in this years tournament, Phil Michelson is at -6 and Tiger, who is certainly thankful he even made the cut, is at -2. But Spieth is at -14?! Wait! What!?  . . . Whew!

Let’s hang on till Sunday to see if the “kid” can come to close out the deal.

Don’t Force It

U.S. Open - Final Round

Tiger Woods is forcing it. At one point, his driving and his putting and his short game and his long career were considered a thing of beauty. But not now. Now, because of sin and shame, he’s forcing it. And forcing it doesn’t work for anybody.

I’ve learned not to force it. And the great players of every sport have learned this truth too. Yes there are times when great players “take over a game” but the situation dictates it, and 9 times out of 10, the players on the court or field yield to the will and way of this great athlete, and there is nothing they can do to stop them.

God knows that we can’t force people to genuinely do anything. And God doesn’t force us either. God knows He could, but He wisely doesn’t. Why? Because forcing people and forcing things is a non-starter. A wise man once said “I won’t force myself to have space in your life because if you know my worth, you’ll create one for me.” Wow. How ‘bout that? And that’s exactly how God feels about us.

Spiritually speaking, we have been taught to “take the Kingdom by force.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Kingdom of God is to be inherited and received and entered into, not forced or built or taken. Yeah. How ‘bout that? In Matthew 11:12 Jesus says “But the kingdom had been subject to violence and evil men were trying to take it by force.” Jesus was not saying that we are to take the Kingdom by force. If you really think about this statement, it doesn’t even make sense. How can mortal men take the immortal kingdom by force?

What Jesus was saying was that the religious leaders of His day (forceful men) were resisting the movement introduced by John, Jesus, and the apostles. The Greek word used for “take by force” means “Forcefully advancing.” The Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious elite of Jesus’ day, were those leaders who wanted a kingdom, but not the kind Jesus was offering. So they were resisting the message and attempting to establish their own rule. But John’s message was true, and if the nation would have accepted it, they would have consequently accepted Jesus. (Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries)

So instead of teaching that we should “take the kingdom by force,” we should be teaching to enter and to receive God’s best for us. It’s about choosing, not about forcing. Life is about making good choices. And I, speaking for all of us, have made my fair share of bad ones. And you have too.

So I’ve learned to let the game come to me. It’s not that I’m lazy or that I’m advocating lukewarm living or a lackluster life. Not so. On the contrary, we are to push and press, and progress and proceed in our lives towards our destiny. Our goal should be to meet God every day and to enter the Kingdom of God in every way. Choosing to enter and to receive and to inherit God’s power and presence is a whole lot better that trying to force our way in, which, thankfully, we don’t have to do. So, remember, don’t force it. Let the game come to you.