|Golf should order a Big Mac|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
Jason Giambi revealed last week that Mark McGwire is playing golf very seriously and hopes to play professionally. I hope so. Someone needs to be able to provide a challenge for Tiger Woods.
This is not only because he is that good -- though he clearly is better than any other golfer on the course -- but because he cares and works so much harder at his career than any of the competitors. People who think differently are simply living in the past, much like the misogynists running the Augusta old-boy network or the movie executives who keep greenlighting Sylvester Stallone's pictures.
There was no greater proof of this than at the U.S. Open last month when Tiger toyed with the rest of the field, staking an early lead and holding it the rest of the way. You could see for yourself how far Tiger is ahead of everyone else on the final holes. There he was, striding confidently up the fairway, his expression as resolute as Dick Cheney in front of a federally protected arctic wilderness, the muscles rippling beneath his red shirt. No one had ever looked so fit, so certain and so determined outside of Russell Crowe attending a chi Omega rush party.
Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, walked up the fairway looking as if he had just moved up to a C cup. Many columnists had said we should cut Lefty some slack, that his career was far better than he'd been given credit. It is, but then he came up to the final holes looking like he should be tested for estrogen. He had just squandered whatever his slim chances of beating Tiger and winning the Open. But was he upset? To the contrary. He was overcome with relief. The pressure was off. He didn't have to worry about competing against Tiger anymore.
He wore the expression of a man wholly at peace with himself. It was the expression of a man who had his priorities in order beyond all question. It was the expression of a great golfer with a clear understanding that win or lose, he was coming home to a beautiful, adoring wife with hundreds of thousands of dollars and the good will of fans.
It was the expression of second place.
That's the difference between Tiger and everyone else. Everyone else is content to take their earnings and go home. Tiger isn't. There is an inner fire inside Tiger burning as surely as a Cheech Marin's reefer. Where other golfers would like to win, Tiger must win. It's probably the only way to keep his old man from pestering him with tips.
McGwire could counter that attitude. Coming from a team sport, he would bring new and welcome dimensions to golf.
Tiger, like all golfers, is a prima donna, unwilling to perform when fans so much as snap a photo while he prepares for a tee shot ("Somebody tell those birds to stop chirping!). McGwire, on the other hand, was used to fans heckling while he awaited a Randy Johnson fastball. It never bothered him. If he could hit a 98 mph fastball with fans screaming at him, he'll have no problem dealing with a little crowd noise while trying to hit a ball that's just sitting there. The question is how the others would handle the additional pressure. My guess? Not well.
Would McGwire unseat Tiger? Maybe not. But he certainly would make things more interesting.
Imagine McGwire sinking a birdie on 18 at Augusta to win The Masters, then dramatically lifting Colin Montgomerie. Bashing forearms with Tiger after his mammoth drive reaches the green. Telling Sergio Garcia to hurry up and tee off before he rams his Calloway where the sun doesn't shine. Todd McFarlane bidding on Mac's golf balls.
And just imagine the PGA debating whether to test golfers for steroids.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.