by John Feinstein
While I’m not quite yet ready to include John Feinstein in the sentence as Bernard Darwin and Herbert Wind Warren, (although I just did, didn’t I) I at least am willing to put him in the same paragraph. With Moment of Glory, Feinstein has added another top notch work to an oeuvre that includes such excellent efforts as “A Good Walk Spoiled,” “Tales from Q School,” and “Are You Kidding Me?”
Moment of Glory focuses on the 2003 Major Championship season, when four players not named Tiger Woods won golf’s four major championships: Mike Weir at the Masters; Jim Furyk, the US Open; Ben Curtis, the Open Championship; and Shaun Micheel, the PGA Championship. In a fine bit of reporting, Feinstein has obviously talked a great deal to these men, to their families and to others involved in the Championship weekends, including competitors and the runners up (with one notable exception). The stories Feinstein tells are personal and compelling.
For each of the 2003 Champions, Feinstein delves into their backgrounds, their early struggles on Tour (and they ALL struggled) and their personal lives leading up to the Championship weekend. The tournaments themselves are of course covered, and then Feinstein writes of the difficulties they faced after winning their respective Championships. This last was the most surprising part to me: how winning on golf’s biggest stages can at times be a tremendous burden. Of the three, Furyk seemed to get off the lightest; Micheel, the worst.
Also of interest was Feinstein’s epilogue to the book, in which he followed up on the Champions’ more recent years, and also was able to track down what happened to the runners up. As it turns out, narrowly missing a Championship can be devastating.
But while Tiger was not a factor in any of these Majors, his shadow loomed large. Feinstein points out that Tiger was in the middle of retooling his swing in 2003, and not performing at all like the golf world came to expect. Indeed, the book opens, not with any of the four eventual Major winners, but with Tiger—firing Butch Harmon at the British Open in 2002. It was a stunning passage, so I’ll replay it here:
When Woods spotted Harmon waiting for him on the range at Muirfield, he walked over and the two men shook hands.
“Look Butch. I’m okay this week,” Woods said quietly. “I’ve got it.”
Harmon understood exactly what Woods was saying but he wanted to be sure.
“You don’t need me out here,” he said, making it more a statement than a question.
“No, I don’t. Thanks.”
“Good luck, Tiger.”
That was it. Eight year after they first began working together—eight major Championship victories later—Woods, in a matter of about thirty seconds, had fired Harmon.
Interestingly, I get the impression that Weir, Furyk, Curtis and Micheel all knew the role that Tiger’s lack of competitiveness in 2003 played in their wins. That’s not to take anything away from the “Underdogs”—they earned their victories against the world’s best. But a strong Tiger in a tournament in those days made a big difference.
It also gives a glimpse—however fleeting—of what a Tigerless tour would look like: a more competitive sport, where “on any given Sunday” any one could win.
But thankfully, the book spends very little time on Tiger. Instead, it’s a welcome look at some of the “other” guys on Tour.