Two iconic moments emerged from this year’s PGA Championship, neither of which really received much attention, but each offering two different glimpses of the future.
First, Rory showed up Sunday in the brightest of reds. Not the muted burgundy or maroon typically favored by Tiger. Rory was in wild scarlet. When asked about the choice in shirt color after he crushed the field, Rory explained that his mischievously prescient sponsor (Oakley) scripted the red shirt earlier in the week. But make no mistake, Rory embraced it. He said he would not have worn the color if paired with Tiger, and I believe him. But it is hard to believe that Rory would have still gone through with it if he also weren’t leading the tournament. That would have looked silly. No, this was a Statement. Rory was going to bring home his second major wearing the color Tiger has owned for a generation of Sundays. Fuck Tiger. That time is over. This is my time. There is no way around this message, just like there is no way around the power of the statement, each made emphatic by the margin of the victory.
I would have missed the second moment if not for a fellow TW follower. He sent over a video showing that when pressed to hoist the trophy in the standard victorious pose of the champion, Rory had all sorts of problems simply lifting the damned thing up and then over his head. It was nearly comical. He used his knee, contorted, made up his face, and strained. I would bet he grunted. All the while dressed in scarlet.
The perfectness of the metaphor is similarly unavoidable. To be sure, Rory won major number two in convincing fashion. But is he really up to the red shirt? After his victory, the sports media again took up the chants of heir apparent; the mantle has passed; the real threat to Tiger’s push for the record. Padraig Harrington again gloated. But just weeks ago the media were writing about his slump, missed cuts and off year since winning his first major.
Heir apparent? I don’t think so. We’ll need a few more wins before we can think that. Up to the red shirt? Hardly. But maybe Rory would have started a trend where those ahead on Sunday endeavor to wear the color. Good luck with that extra pressure. Those are some enormous shoes to fill. Just hope they can lift the trophy.
Does Tiger Own Sunday Red?
No and yes.
I would be the first person to tell you that I never would have gone along with it. I would never have stayed away from a particular color solely because someone else favored it. I wear red now and shoot, well, high. That professional golfers would have done it in mass has always baffled me. Weren’t they committing the ultimate sin in sport? To concede power in any way to another athlete? To give a competitor—especially one so dominant and intimidating—any sort of psychological advantage? “Eye of the Tiger” (laugh) and all that. (Ever note how Sprinters treat one another at the start of the race? Total defiance and bravado.) Nope, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s like conceding even before you step on the course. It’s giving yourself another psychological hurdle to overcome. There’s Tiger, the scrambler with razor sharp focus and incredible game, in his winning, charmed fucking red shirt. Wasn’t this homage to Tiger one of the biggest mistakes of all time? Part of the perfect storm that gave us Tiger? And it’s not like the other golfer’s even like Tiger which might have explained the unprecedented deference. And you know, like Sprinters, Tiger never would have done it for anyone else.
But honor him they have. And there has been something noble and honorable and golf-like about the entire thing. And now some 14 majors and 74 PGA victories later, he has earned the respect and, yes, deference. Even if you don’t like him. Or you hope that one day far in the future you might be better.
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