I HAVE ONLY one thing in common with Phil Mickelson. The golf gods hate us.
I've played golf for 35 years and never had a hole in one. Been handed more bad breaks than the Wallendas' family doctor. Play only on cloudy days, wearing wide-brimmed hats, under assumed names, but the golf gods always recognize me.
So on Sunday, when my drive bounced off a fairway sprinkler head, a cart path and into a lake, I shook my club at the heavens and screamed, "Just give me 10 minutes alone with you!"
Next thing I knew, I was standing in a kind of heavenly airport control tower, with people you could see right through, all of them watching thousands of tiny TV screens.
A little man in green Argyle socks, a green Hogan cap and a green handlebar mustache walked up. He was wearing a button that read BE NICE TO MONTY. (PSYCH!) He stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Tripplus, God of Three-Putts. Welcome to the Parthenon! You get it? Par-thenon? Anyway, you got your 10 minutes. What can we do for you?"
I was dumbstruck. Well, O.K. Uh, are all these people golf gods? I asked, looking around.
"Sure!" he said. "Each god has a specialty. There's Maxus, God of Very High Scores. There's Asis, God of Holes in One. There's Stan, he just screws people for no reason. There's ..."
Wait! What's the deal with Asis anyway? I'm not a horrible player. About an 8. I've never made a single hole in one! Yet I read about this woman from California who's made 12 this year! And she just took up the game!
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. Asis has a crush on her. Let's see, who else? See the guy over there, with the big grin? That's Celebrinterruptus."
"God of Premature Rejoicing. You know. A player says, 'I could double bogey this last hole and still break 100!' I mean, c'mon, how do you expect us to let that slide?"
Why so many gods?
He pulled his cap down over his eyes and grimaced. "Because we handle everybody. I mean, even atheists believe in us! You see that extra tower with all those people? Those gods are just for John Daly alone."
Everybody seems so happy.
"It's U.S. Open week! Pros making doubles, triples, 'others.' Players spraining wrists, biting through putters, throwing away careers. This is our Christmas!"
I have to ask: What have you guys got against me?
"You?" He looked at his clipboard. "Let's see ... you keep defending Mickelson. We don't like him. We have a saying around here: What will we do to Phil next? Last year, the double bogey to blow it at Winged Foot. This year, the wrist. Now he says U.S. Open courses are 'dangerous'? Oh, my. He better wear a helmet next year."
Just then a very jittery god walked by, holding a giant mug with coffee spilling out of it. I gave a quizzical look.
"Nervosis, God of Yips. Don't get too close. Hey, you want a quick bite?" He pointed to a buffet table—fried eggs, pork shanks and chili dip.
I passed and asked him what's the No. 1 thing people do to anger the golf gods.
"Cockiness. You know, saying, 'I've played this whole round with only one ball!' Or, 'I don't even see the lake!' Or, 'I finally cured my slice.' That's when you get a sudden gust on a windless day, a lawn mower starting up on your backswing. We have thousands of bees on retainer. You don't think they just happen along, do you?"
How come Tiger never seems to get any bad breaks? Perfect swing, perfect body, perfect wife. I mean, how lucky can one guy get?
"The boss has him in his fantasy league."
Just then I saw a screen that had Angel Cabrera accepting the U.S. Open trophy. What's with you guys and all these fluke Open winners—Jack Fleck, Orville Moody and now Cabrera?
"Just flexing the muscles a little. Want you guys to know that we can take anybody and make him king. Anyway, got to go, Pards. Trump's about to tee off."
And just like that I was whooshed back to the course, looking at my ball, which was still in the lake. Suddenly, a fish spit it back at my feet.
On the ball, it read YOU'RE WELCOME.
If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it firstname.lastname@example.org
"It's U.S. Open week! Pros making double bogeys, triples, 'others.' Players spraining wrists, throwing away careers. This is our Christmas."
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PETER READ MILLER