A possible heir

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

Thank goodness for Tiger, once again.

Or, as his new young challenger calls him: “T Dub.”

We know that Anthony Kim calls Tiger “T Dub” because Tiger saved golf for the weekend by lobbing in a cell phone call to Kim after A.K. made Tiger’s AT&T National Kim’s second win of the season. CBS was kind enough to provide us with a televised account of the call, and it’s a good thing, too, because I was having a hard time firing up for the golf after watching Nadal and Federer exhaust every bit of my sports-watching energy on Sunday.

Admit it: It’s pretty tough to fire up for 54-hole leader Tom Pernice Jr. after you’ve watched Rembrandt and Van Gogh stage an all-time classic for 5 hours on Centre Court.

But Tiger’s call to Kim, caught on camera at the close of Sunday’s broadcast, provided us with the most thought-provoking image of the week on the PGA Tour.

(Side note, to self: Does Nadal’s 5-set masterpiece win mean that Tiger, who brooks no losers, will now expunge Federer’s cell phone number from his Rolodex? Or did Tiger text his fellow Nike Swoosh and ask: “Good try, Rog. Can you text me with Rafa’s digits? He’s my new BFF.”)

At any rate, back to Tiger’s phone call. The world’s best player was nice enough to ring up Kim after the win, and happened to catch Kim while he was signing autographs. A rep from Tiger’s foundation handed the phone to Kim, who interestingly decided to keep signing autographs while talking on the phone. I don’t know about you, but if Tiger calls me, I’m telling the 11-year-old kid with the Sharpie: “Hang on, little guy. I’ve got Tiger on the phone. Go get Freddie Jacobson’s John Hancock.”

Twas a bold move by A.K., and spoke to his well-developed sense of self. Since Kim is the closest thing we’ve seen to a young Tiger in a decade, let’s break down the epic conversation, and parse its many meanings.

But first – what? You don’t think Kim is the closest thing we’ve seen to a young Tiger in a decade? Perhaps I’m coming from a different place than you. I’ve sat through the last 10 years and been force-fed the following names: David Gossett, Charles Howell III, Ty Tryon, Matt Kuchar, Aaron Baddeley, Bryce Molder… we can stop anytime, now. And I’m being kind in leaving Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott off that list, as each has won The Players Championship, but still, each man quakes in his Footjoys when Tiger gets within two spaces of them on the driving range. The bottom line is this: Kim, at 23, is the first American under the age of 25 to win twice on tour in the same year.

Garcia did it, too, but he’s from Spain, and he’s having enough trouble keeping his name in the headlines after Rafa’s genius and the Spanish national soccer team’s Euro win. Heck, I wonder if Sergio can even get backstage if, say, Coldplay plays Barcelona.

Concert rep to Sergio’s people: Sorry, I can’t get you backstage. Rafa’s here with his posse, and he’s drinking champagne with the Spanish national football team and dozens of world-class models. Tell El Nino to win at Birkdale and we’ll get back to him.

So, back to Kim’s chat with Tiger. Here’s what we heard, in regular type, and here’s my English-major breakdown of its meaning in italics:

Kim: “Hello?”

(Meaning: I know this is Tiger since a Tiger rep handed me the phone, but I have to play it cool and pretend like I don’t know who it is.)

Kim: “T Dub! What’s up?”

(Meaning: Tiger was obviously slightly annoyed that he had to say: “AK, it’s me, Tiger.” The conversation is growing interesting.)

Kim: “Thanks, bro. I appreciate it.”

(Meaning: Kim tries to stay appropriately humble, all the while thinking: If you were here, I’d have kicked your butt, too. You want some of this belt buckle? You know where to find me. In the winner’s circle. At YOUR tournament.)

Kim: “You in Florida?”

(Meaning: Kim artfully puts the heat on Tiger, with the subtext: What, you had ACL surgery and you can’t get on a G-5 and make it to your “hosted” tourney? Football players are back on the gridiron in a week after that. What, you too busy barking at landscapers or having a cold one on your yacht?)

Kim: “Must be nice… I’m trying to get some Ws so I can do that myself.”

(Meaning: Here is Kim’s most revealing passage. Clearly, Tiger rebuffed Kim’s subtle suggestion that he should have been at the tournament with a full-bore, double-barrel response that must have indicated at the plush nature of his existence. Something along the lines of: “I’m just going online to check my checking balance. Then I think I’ll bark at some landscapers and have a cold one on my yacht.” But Kim’s answer, “Must be nice… I’m trying to get some Ws so I can do that myself” is a high and tight fastball under Tiger’s chin. The message: You think I’m happy with just these two lousy wins? I’ve got skills, and I’m looking for boatloads of wins, so make a space in that harbor for yacht. OK, T Dub?)

Kim: “I appreciate it, man… thank you, thank you.”

(Meaning: No dark meaning. Here, Kim keeps Tiger off-guard by answering his compliments with a humble reply. Cagy.)

Kim: “Thanks for calling, bud… thank you, thank you.”

(Meaning: I know you had a lackey make this phone call for you, and I know you never took me off speakerphone, but I do appreciate your sentiments, nonetheless.)

And with that, golf fans, our next great rivalry was born.

Scorecard of the week

73-68-67-66 – Rocco Mediate, tie-18th, AT&T National.

We’re less than two months away from Cap’n Paul Azinger naming his four picks to round out Team USA, and with Our Man Rocco at 14th in the Ryder Cup points standings, he’s got a shot to make the team on points alone. But, assuming he doesn’t, can we start the chants right now, right here, at Yahoo! Sports? Everybody, on three, We Will/We Will Roc-co!

Everybody thought Mediate would fade away like a fleeting summer romance after Torrey Pines, but here he is, still getting it around quite nicely. Can you imagine Team USA’s vibe in September with no Tiger to intimidate everyone, with A.K. walking around in his belt buckle ready to take down Sergio in match play, and with Rocco keeping everybody loose at dinnertime while driving the Euros nuts with his bunts off the tee and relentless pars? I smell something good in Kentucky, and it ain’t just the fried chicken, partner.

Broadcast moment of the week

“Tiger was no doubt calling collect.” – Nick Faldo, on watching Kim receive Tiger’s congratulatory phone call.

Meow! Faldo gets off a good line at the expense of Tiger’s frugal reputation.

While we’re on the topic of Faldo, it’ll be fun watching him get tighter and tighter as the Ryder Cup approaches. That’s a tough gig, skippering Team Euro. You have very little to gain. If you win, you’re just continuing the run set by Sam Torrance in ’02, Bernhard Langer in ’04 and Ian Woosnam in ’06. If you lose, you’re the biggest choker of the 21st century. Unenviable gig, that.

Mulligan of the week

The only player who had a chance to chase down Kim was the irrepressible Tommy Armour III, who is playing some lovely golf of late. His tie-3rd at the AT&T meant two top-3 finishes in his last two starts, and four top-25 finishes in his last four starts. Not bad for a guy who turns 49 in October. If we want to get really greedy, we can push for an Armour bid on the Ryder Cup team, adding his partying nature and A-list cell phone numbers to the team room. It would be mayhem.

At any rate, he trailed Kim by 3 with 3 holes to play and had a nice look at his third to the par-5 16th. Alas, our man Tommy bladed his wedge off the grandstand and had to fight to make par. Had he stiffed it, and made bird, maybe we could have had some drama down the stretch, and in a wild world, even a Kim-Armour playoff, which would have been wildly entertaining. Moreover, had he made a birdie down the stretch, he’d have earned an exemption to the British Open, where his grandfather won in 1931 and an event he hasn’t played since 1989 so … give that man a mulligan!

Where do we go from here?

We’re a week away from Birkdale, so let’s do a very British thing and hang out on tractors in rural Illinois at the John Deere Classic.

This one is always fun: The winner, if not already qualified, earns a spot at the British Open, and his transportation is hassle-free, as the Deere organizers have chartered the Dallas Mavericks team plane to fly directly from Quad City International to Manchester, England on Sunday evening. And no extra charge if you want a bag of peanuts. Can’t beat it. Let’s tee it up.