News & Opinion

Some extra mettle for today’s medal play

President Donald Trump will present Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom today at the White House. As you must know, the 43-year-old Woods rose from the career ashes to win at Augusta National a few weeks ago. Is there any question that all Americans sleep easier knowing Woods is the Masters champion?

After all, we live in a world that has golf tournaments, and those tournaments have to be won by men with clubs. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? Tiger has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what Tiger knows, that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives; and Tiger’s win at the Masters, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives … or something like that.

Besides, unlike the Golden State Warriors or the University of Virginia basketball team, Woods will come to the White House to be recognized. Maybe that’s why he’s getting a medal.

To be fair, lots of sports figures have been recognized in the past, including Jack Nicklaus, the late Arnold Palmer and the late Charlie Sifford. And to be honest, this medal-bestowing business is an intriguing concept to the freedom fighters here at Morning Read. Publications historically have handed out awards. The Sporting News has been giving out Player of the Year awards since 1936. The Associated Press honored its first Athlete of the Year in 1931, and so on.

Why not Morning Read? What would do more to make America great again than Morning Read stepping up to honor distinguished members of the golf community? Of course, budget constraints and the absence of operational facilities would prohibit us from receiving guests or giving away any actual medals.

Nonetheless, we still have virtual reality, and the MR Digital Medal of Distinction would be inspired by the same uplifting principles as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That is, it would be awarded for "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Frankly in addition to Woods, a number of people deserve such recognition. For instance:

Joe LaCava: Tiger Woods, not his caddie, won the Masters. But the 64-year-old LaCava has been willing to talk to the media about those fateful Sunday moments at the Masters. Not that LaCava has revealed any secrets or said anything provocative, but in the past, those inside the circle of trust have not remained in the circle long by jibber-jabbering. In Camp Tiger, it is wise to speak softly and carry the large bag. Perhaps, like a number of things with Woods, things have changed. LaCava, who also carried Masters-winning luggage for Fred Couples in 1992, is hereby recognized for finding out.

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John Peterson sees the life of a touring pro as a step up in the mantra of 'location, location, location' after a few months in real estate.

John Peterson: After seeing Patrick Cantlay, a player whom Peterson had beaten at the 2011 NCAA Championships, tie for ninth at Augusta, the 30-year-old Peterson decided to return to professional golf. Mind you, he just retired from the game last September after managing two top-10s in 93 PGA Tour starts. It’s a gutsy, Presidential Medal of Freedomish move on his part. Then again, he was working long hours in a real estate office, so … we’ll honor him instead.

Phil Mickelson: A five-time major champion, Mickelson has finished second or T-2 at the U.S. Open six times. No doubt, it gnaws at him, the $3.38 million that he has earned from those finishes notwithstanding. Well, the dogged “Lefty” will be back, chasing that elusive national championship at Pebble Beach in June, refusing to stand down. Admirable. But that’s not why he gets an award. We’re recognizing Mickelson for his meritorious “Phil Kwon Do Calves” series on Twitter. The revolutionary series inspired Bubba Watson’s “3-pound curl” video and has “high bombs” bursting in air everywhere. You’re welcome.

Akshay Bhatia: A 17-year-old from Wake Forest, N.C., Bhatia is the world’s top junior amateur and has plans to skip college and turn pro. “I probably started thinking about turning pro and not going to college when I was in eighth grade,” Bhatia said in January. Based on that statement alone, we think he deserves recognition for attending high school. Bhatia will follow in the spike marks of Ty Tryon, another North Carolinian. At age 16, Tryon announced that he would skip college and turned pro in 2001. Eighteen years later, his career-best finish is a T-10 at the 2003 Bay Hill Invitational. But, hey, don’t worry, Akshay. You got this.

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Lexi Thompson deserves some sort of honor for her anti-social stance.

Lexi Thompson: The LPGA star recently told followers that she’s taking a break from social media. Prominent media entities ran stories suggesting that the break was related to hateful, mean-spirited backlash that she received for playing golf with Trump. Thompson’s camp quickly responded with a statement to the contrary: “Any news report that a recent event or situation led to her decision is completely false and erroneous.” In other words, she’s taking a break from the usual hurtful, mean-spirited backlash spread via social media. Demonstrating that we are not a prominent media entity, we respect Thompson’s decision and honor her stance.

John Daly: As one who grew up in Arkansas, “Long John” always has been an unabashed supporter of Walmart, which was founded in Rogers, Ark. Some might say the two were a match made in a trailer park … some might say that; not us, but some. However, a bad experience waiting in a checkout line has ended the love affair. Daly recently tweeted that he would “never step foot into a #Walmart again.” We honor Daly for his courageous actions, not so much for the Walmart slam, but for the other hashtag reference: “#hadtoselfcheckoutwithahundreditems.”

C’mon, self-checkout with 100 items? You can’t teach that.

We could go on, because several others deserve recognition. At age 61, Bernhard Langer made the cut at the Masters again, and he continues to impose his will on the Champions Tour. He might get an honorary Gary Player Digital Medal of Distinction. Hosung Choi made his PGA Tour debut with a swing that can only be replicated while being tased. That has to contribute to world peace.

And finally, we have Brittany Lincicome, who played in a PGA Tour event last season and will take a maternity leave to have a baby in September. Now, if Tiger Woods could do that, he truly would deserve a medal, presidential or otherwise.

Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, Golf.com and The Memorial magazine. Email: dan13153@gmail.com; Twitter: @WWDOD