Simply amazing

Did you watch it? I'm talking about the U.S. Open. If you did, you know what "amazing" I'm talking about. Saturday, Tiger Wood's putt for an eagle on the 13th hole from 65 feet away was amazing. The chip shot on the 17th was amazingly lucky. Tiger hit another amazing eagle on the 18th hole.

Sunday, the final round, was no less dramatic, but in a much different way. Tiger opened up the round playing like me. I know, that's not really fair to Tiger who did hit the ball, something I regularly (when I play) fail to do. But on the first five holes, Sam MacFie, who can play golf, could've whipped him.

Tiger started the round ahead but fell behind only to work back to a tie with a dramatic putt on the 18th hole to force a 18-hole playoff. All Rocco Mediate could do was watch as the ball fell in.

If you're a regular reader of this column you know I'm not a golfer. I can count the rounds I've played in my lifetime on one hand with fingers left over. So why was I watching the U.S. Open on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday? Tiger Woods. I bet you can say the same thing.

Tiger has brought a new and different audience to the world of golf. Aside from being the greatest golfer on the planet right now he came to the game with a compelling story. Tiger doesn't fit the Arnold, Jack, Byron, Sam or Tom mold. He is the new face of golf. Tiger has inspired people to see the possibilities that someone who looks like him could be a top golfer.

It's the same phenomenon surrounding Barack Obama. He has inspired millions to get involved in the political process who hadn't been interested and has reinvigorated others.

There are eerie similarities between Tiger and Barack. For some reason, people love them. They have been given a stamp of approval despite their bi-racial heritage. Both men, and their success, prove that our nation has come far from the days when a black candidate didn't have chance to compete for a major party's nomination; a time when a black golfer couldn't enter the exclusive country clubs used by the PGA unless they were part of the wait staff.

Both men have faced scrutiny not given to other politicians or golfers about some pretty ridiculous things. When Tiger first burst onto the golf scene, his now-signature fist pump, something we saw in abundance over the weekend, was misinterpreted by some of his fans.

His gesture wasn't much different from what we've seen when a baseball pitcher records a strikeout, or a soccer or hockey player scores a goal. Tiger, after making an extremely difficult shot would pump his fist in the air, but for some reason, that gesture was taken as a black power salute or something else. Amazing.

Now let's fast forward to the latest controversy involving the Obama campaign. Barack and his wife Michelle shared a fist bump after the Montana and South Dakota results were in. Most people probably didn't even think about it, but on Fox News' America's Pulse, E.D. Hill called their little fist bump a "terrorist fist jab." Amazing.

To Fox's credit, Hill lost her anchor slot, though she's still with the network, but how did her mind go there in the first place? How had such a simple, benign gesture become a terrorist fist jab?

Fox is also smarting from an incident on its crawl, you know the news tidbits that scroll along the bottom of the screen. One said, "Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama's baby mama!" referring to Michelle Obama. So much for fair and balanced.

If you watched the U.S. Open, you'll know Tiger's fist pump is no longer derided but emulated. What he did during the U.S. Open tournament is off the charts. Its the kind of stuff legends are made of, and what Obama has done - energizing a generation of voters - is similarly astounding.

But our petty troubles with fist pumps or fist jabs, should remind us that we all have hidden prejudices and assumptions that can come out of hiding.

As long as we recognize where our minds can go, we can pull them back in line. The logical side can override the scary, emotional side that's full of demons and unresolved issues.

If we allow such petty things to set our minds racing, we should check ourselves, because something's not quite right. It's 2008, not 1958.

By the way, Tiger did finally win the U.S. Open on Monday, but it took an 18-hole playoff and a single sudden death hole. Simply amazing.

Charles E. Richardson's columns appear Sundays. He can be reached at crichardson@macon.com or (478) 744-4342.