Stuart Cink won the 2009 British Open at Turnberry last Sunday, his first major championship. However, the new highpoint in the 36 year-old Cink’s professional golf career came at the expense of Tom Watson’s happiness and the happiness of (nearly all) golf fans world-wide who desperately wanted to see Watson do the impossible: win golf’s most storied major at the not-so-tender age of 59, eleven years older than any previous major winner. Although Watson had previously won the Open five times, his last major victory came twenty-six years ago—during Ronald Regan’s first-term as President! This situation raises a variety of questions about happiness (or well being) and morality.
What is the relationship (if any) between (athletic) achievement and well being? Would Watson have been better off had he simply not entered the tournament, or missed the cut, instead of contending and suffering the disappointment of a near win? Might Cink have acted wrongly in sinking a 15-foot put on the 72nd hole to tie Watson before beating him in a playoff? On a utilitarian view of morality, for example, Cink should have considered the likely effect that making his putt would have on the total amount of happiness in the world. Had Cink acted as a utilitarian, however, it seems that he would have compromised both his integrity and the integrity of his sport. If so, then the utilitarian analysis of Cink’s action may give us more reason to question the truth of utilitarianism than the moral probity of Stuart Cink. And yet, is it any wonder why golf fans (myself included) might blame Cink for ruining our collective fairytale?
Well-Being: Psychological Research for Philosophers
By Valerie Tiberius, University of Minnesota
(Vol. 1, September 2006)