The NCAA Final Four Men’s Basketball Championship concluded last night when the Louisville Cardinals outlasted the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, and it reminded me of another reason I believe golf is the greatest game.
As I read articles this morning with reaction to last night’s title game, I heard an overwhelming outcry, especially from Michigan fans and non-Louisville fans, at the officiating that took place. Although Louisville was called for more fouls than the Wolverines, 22-15, they were the more aggressive team and apparently got away with a lot of fouls. It also appeared that several calls went their direction, including a phantom foul on a 3-point shot and a non-call on a jump ball under the basket.
In the aftermath you have the Cardinals and their fans excited about winning a championship, many of which are calling the Wolverines and their fans cry-babies for complaining about the errors made in officiating. It has soured the after-taste and created a very divisive national debate.
Contrast that with what is taking place this week in Augusta, Georgia. It’s the Masters Tournament, golf’s most prestigious major championship, played among the tall Georgia pines and what many consider to be heaven on earth.
Last year’s tournament ended on the first playoff hole between Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuzen with a dramatic hooking pitch shot out of the pine needles to claim Watson’s first major championship. It was a dramatic moment filled with emotion and many tears, and the two men shook hands afterwards in the usual manner displayed in every golf tournament. Although Oosthuzen was clearly disappointed losing the playoff, he congratulated Watson for playing better than he did. It was mutual respect for two great players who had just gone toe-to-toe for the coveted green jacket.
What’s noticeably missing from that scene is the influence of an official determining the outcome of the game. In the end, the results in golf are always based upon how you performed compared to the rest of the field. If you win, it’s because you played well enough to win. If you lose, no one can blame it on the officials or any other factors.
Golf is the purest form of competition and the only major professional sport in which one player has no direct impact on how another player performs. It’s a beautiful game and, some might say, the greatest game ever invented.