There are times when all the stupid stuff just goes away in an instant, all the petty and juvenile sports fan preferences and rivalries and likes and dislikes, and last week in the golf world was one of those times.
The sobering and sad news of Amy Mickelson's breast cancer rendered any critic of Phil Mickelson's inconsistent history under golf pressure mute, and instead turned the entire golf world into huge Lefty fans. Such was the tenor of the news that the vivacious and charismatic Amy would undergo the fight of her life that even Rory Sabbatini, himself a magnet of criticism and controversy, stood tall.
First off, Sabbatini played lights-out golf at the Byron Nelson Championship. A 64 on a Sunday pretty much works anytime, anywhere, but when it comes in the final pairing, and it holds off hard-charging Englishman Brian Davis – the hottest player on the planet nobody's ever heard of – the Sunday 64 becomes one of the better rounds of the springtime on tour.
And there Sabbatini was, doing it in a pink polo shirt that he said was dedicated to Amy Mickelson's fight with breast cancer. Never thought I'd type these words, but: Class move, Rory Sabbatini.
Considering Sabbatini is the kind of guy who normally looks like he got dressed in the dark – witness his assorted looks through the years, including belt buckles with skulls and wings, which may work for "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert but not so much for a slightly pudgy 5-foot-something pro golfer – you had to applaud the South African-born Texas resident.
And considering Sabbatini has never been a guy for whom you want to go the extra mile as a fan, his win and tribute to Amy was that much more telling of the week's tenor. Sure, Sabbatini, like all of us, is complex. You can't just slap "tour jerk" on his reputation and move on, considering the work he does for injured soldiers, raising funds and awareness, an important cause always but especially as the country comes off of a Memorial Day weekend.
But let's just say Sabbatini is, ahem, sometimes a difficult player to root for. Dating back to 2005, when he stormed away from Ben (Molasses) Crane for his slow-play, and to 2006, when his wife wore a shirt reading "Keep Up!" to heckle Rory's playing partner, Nick Faldo, at Sawgrass, and to 2007, when Sabbatini took a stick and poked the legend by proclaiming Tiger as "more beatable than ever," this Texan has done a pretty good job of being a divider, not a uniter.
Then we see him on Sunday, playing brilliant golf and paying tribute to Amy Mickelson, and so, yes, we do stand and cheer him, at least on this day.
The approaching summer of golf took a serious turn with the news of Amy's cancer, and it means we likely won't see Phil for some time. That's sad news for us golf fans, as nobody gives theatre like Lefty. His 67 to Tiger's 68 at Augusta National set the stage for what seemed sure to be more fireworks at Bethpage Black next month, in front of those irrepressible New York galleries, but all of that is on hold now, as it should be.
Amy is such a vital part of Lefty's whole scene on the golf course. We've come to know her on TV screens, waiting by the 18th green with her adoring smile and children, and some have come to know her in person, always upbeat, always there with a greeting or a chat, as irreplaceable a part of the Mickelson Show as Lefty's aw-shucks grin or famous vertical leap at Augusta '04.
Amy Mickelson is not the first woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer, nor is she the only relative of a player on tour to be fighting the fight of her life. These things happen to all of us, to all of our families, but the reason why Rory Sabbatini and so many others – including John Daly in Europe, who wore pink trousers to pay tribute to Amy – are highlighting Amy Mickelson's plight is because of the chance for all of us to pay attention to all who are sick. It's about all of them. Amy Mickelson, certainly, wants as much attention and funds and research to cancer study as possible, but not just for her – but for all of us, for all of our families, for all of us who are hurting along with a loved one. It's called awareness, and any time we, as sports fans, are made more aware, the world is a better place.
That's why Amy Mickelson's cause is important, and that's why it was important for Rory Sabbatini to shoot 64 and win the Nelson in his pink shirt.
We're rooting for you, Amy. Fight the good fight. And well played, Rory.
Scorecard of the week
• 68-70-62-67 – 21-under 267, first place, Yani Tseng, LPGA Corning Classic.
Today's trivia question: Name the female golfer of Asian descent, born in 1989, who won the 2008 LPGA Rookie of the Year, bagged a major at 19 years old and won her second title with a 62-67 weekend that spoke to her greatness?
Yeah. Trick question. See, the answer was supposed to be Michelle Wie who, like the correct answer, Yani Tseng, was born in 1989, and set out to do all those great things Tseng, who is from Taiwan, already has. Wie finished tied-26 at the Corning, and quite frankly even I – a huge Wie fan – am tired of tracking her story. Wake me when you win a major, Wiesy.
In the meantime, rock on, Yani. And since the New Age pianist Yanni has never been known to "rock on," we're definitely talking female Taiwanese golfers here, not Doug Henning lookalikes tickling the ivories.
Mulligan of the week
• So apparently there was a "streaker" at the Nelson on Sunday. True story. According to reporters on the scene, a fan clad only in boxer shorts tore across the 18th fairway, tumbled over a fence and disappeared.
This brings up several issues. One, what happened to the art of streaking? Two, how sad was it when that web site – which will not get a free plug here – started sponsoring streakers, leading to British Opens and Wimbledons being tainted by sponsored streakers? And three, if you're in your boxer shorts, can you truly be considered a "streaker?"
For my money, a guy in his boxer shorts running across the 18th fairway at the Nelson is just a drunk who took a dare, but didn't have the Titleists to go all the way.
So, let's go back to the 18th fairway, re-do the dare and … give that streaker a mulligan!
Where do we go from here?
• The Texas Three-Step – that's a Texas Two-Step, with one more step – finishes at Colonial, the great shot maker's track that Ben Hogan once called home. The field isn't bad, either, with Paul Casey fresh off a win in Europe, and Zach Johnson fresh off a win in San Antonio and Rory Sabbatini, fresh off a win at the Nelson and already with a win at Colonial on his résumé. Geoff Ogilvy is playing, too, and his quiet artistry is always worth our attention.
A void will be felt with Phil Mickelson's absence. Last year, Lefty hit arguably the Shot of the Year when he carved a pitching wedge from a side hill, downhill lie on the 72nd hole, under one tree branch, over another, landing nine insanely-close feet to the hole, leading to a birdie and a win.
Phil won't be around to defend his crown. He's tending to other matters now, and we'll be thinking of him.