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Among the giants of golf, Atlanta-born Bobby Tyre Jones Jr. (1902-71) stood tall: A self-effacing natural with a once-in-a-lifetime swing, he overcame childhood illness and an explosive temper to become a courtly champion who earned two college degrees and passed the bar while trouncing the best players of his generation. He won golf's first Grand Slam, conquering the British and U.S. Amateur and Open Championships in a single year, an achievement never equaled, let alone bested (contemporary Grand Slam winners only have to win all four competitions in their lifetimes). And Jones doggedly retained his amateur status, an almost inconceivable decision by later take-the-money-and-run standards. Director and co-writer Rowdy Herrington's reverential biopic follows Jones (James Caviezel) from childhood to his bittersweet retirement at age 28, at the top of his game but already suffering symptoms of syringomyelia, the painful degenerative spinal ailment that eventually confined him to a wheelchair. Herrington celebrates both the near-mystical love of golf that drives devotees and Jones' victory over self-doubt and the relentless pressure of other people's expectations — his mother (Connie Ray) would have preferred scholarship to sportsmanship and his bluff, glad-handing father (Brett Rice) was permanently wounded by the fact that his own athletic ambitions were quashed by his father (Dan Albright) — but does so in the most saccharine terms. The film also charts Bobby's relationship with sportswriter and mentor O.B. Keeler (Malcolm McDowell), who recognized Bobby's potential as a teenager and championed him as he found his way; Bobby's courtship of the loyal, conservative Mary Malone (Claire Forlani); and his rivalry and eventual friendship with brash professional champion Walter Hagen (Jeremy Northam). Although it's harder to find the mesmerizing spark in a modest, fundamentally decent character than in a charismatic hellion bent on self-destruction, Caviezel radiates the kind of modest, all-American decency that was once Kevin Costner's purview and belonged to Gary Cooper before that — he almost manages to make the film's unsubtle message about good sportsmanship and realizing your potential seem compelling. Ultimately, the more intensely you buy into the notion that golf is a complex metaphor for the human condition, the more susceptible you'll be to the film's insipid blandishments. Unfortunately for those for whom golf is just a game, so much screen time is devoted to soaring golf-ball POV shots and strokes of genius arcing gracefully in rapturous slow-motion that Bobby Jones often fades into the background.