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June 24, 2014 by Stuart Barber

Saw this on Twitter referring to “Facebook” and it set me thinking. We now rely so heavily on instant news – whether it's fact, sport or indeed anything that we can't instantly access. So when it goes wrong we are lost? Fact or fiction, I think fact.

On Sunday from the depths of South West rural France I wanted to put together a report on the Final 36 holes of the Amateur Championship being held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. I might almost have been there, thanks to the R & A twitter feed. Four hundred and twenty seven tweets (and that's 27 characters of my allotted span!) and with 4,411 following, I was not alone.

So with the aid of twitter I could follow all 36 holes of the final, culminating in Scotsman Bradley Neil's impressive win over South African Zander Lombard. Then with the match over there were the comments of both players and other players, even Royal Portrush itself.

As an aside, and to emphasise the importance of Neil's win, the 18-year-old Scot earned his ticket to the next three majors courtesy of victory at the Amateur Championship.

Hoylake in July, Augusta in April, Chambers Bay in June... these were the bonuses of Neil's 2&1 victory on the famous Dunluce Links.

Yet this was also a fine achievement for British amateur golf as a whole, meaning that their representatives have won the Amateur, the US Amateur and the Amateur again in succession for the first time since 1912.

Arguably the nation's most prestigious amateur tournament and it merited one line in Monday's Daily Telegraph at the foot of “sport in brief”. In days gone by Bernard Darwin the doyen of golf writers would have penned an entire piece of the event.

“Where Garrick Porteous succeeded at Royal Cinque Ports in Kent 12 months ago and Matt Fitzpatrick at the US Amateur at Brookline in Boston in August, so the boy from Blairgowrie Golf Club in Perthshire followed suit on the Antrim coastline”: James Corrigan writing about Neil's victory in the Telegraph.

The age of the instant news information: as I write this, still in a small hamlet in SW France up pops “Rebekah Brooks walks free cleared of all charges – Andy Coulson guilty” You don't even have to wait for the next BBC news bulletin for this and David Cameron has tweeted and already honoured his pledge to apologise in that event to Parliament. We almost have the news thrust at us even before it happens!

Then a profound thought struck me – say my computer freezes, there is a power failure or the internet goes down, then what? Even worse, what if I forget the password to access my twitter account, knowledge will grind to a complete halt – at least for me!

In the midst of this plethora of news and comment comes the “Return of the Tiger”, fateful words that bring instant relief to sponsors - not just his, but those tournament organisers whose events he will play. Writing in The Golf Channel John Hawkins says:-

“ The grim reality? Our game continues to struggle at the box office without Woods around to fatten the mainstream audience. Coming off the lowest television ratings at a Masters since 1993, the U.S. Open produced its worst numbers in almost two decades. It was trounced by America's World Cup victory over Ghana, which drew more than twice as many viewers – on a Monday evening. Good thing Tiger didn't decide to play soccer.”

And then “His mere presence has always had a dramatic impact on interest levels, but with a simple little notification on Facebook this past Friday, Woods altered the complexion of the season. Michelle Wie wins the U.S. Women's Open two days later, and a week that began with a rotten lemon ended with a basket of fresh fruit. Pro golf needs its needle-movers to perform. There are too many meaningless tournaments for the game to prosper when the big ones aren't top-of-the-hour news. Woods may not be healthy enough to win right away. Is our game healthy enough to thrive without him?”

This piece has already attracted over 300 comments I give you just 2 of them :-

“T Lawrence:- Anybody else ever get the impression that when the media and pros refer to "GOLF" - as with a particular player being "GOOD FOR GOLF" - that they're not talking about we who just play for recreation? I'm golfing whether there's a Tiger or not. Tiger's existence does nothing for my game except give me material for the imaginary play-by-play announcer in my head who gives the details every hole as I engage in imaginary competition with PGA pros. I've stomped Tiger repeatedly, even when three-putting. The only thing good for golf when it comes to myself is more time on the driving range and putting green.”

Bill Cavanaugh “T, they're talking about the game overall. I think most of us would rather play than sit in front of the TV. Tiger puts golf on the sports front page, not just the golf front page. Because he is such a polarizing figure, he brings energy to the game.”

So there we have it – not those who do – those who only sit and watch! Tiger returns and probably or almost certainly will not win – but the viewing public, whether on TV or at the venue will increase dramatically, the sponsors will be happy, the controllers of the TV stations will be pleased and so will their advertisers.

I will end this on a brief resume of how Matt Fitzpatrick has reacted to his first professional outing at the Irish Open where a closing 68 saw him finish in 29th place, and pocketing £17,500 for his week's work.

12.7k followers on Twitter and he's only just turned pro! The 19 year old said “ I've no idea what I'm going to do with it at the minute I'll probably put some aside for something” and “Receiving my first pay cheque is a nice feeling to have” And so say all of us!

So to golf's media owners Tiger's return probably means a lot more than Bradley Neil winning the Amateur Championship or newly turned professional Matt Fitzpatrick's first tournament. Not to them however, or the countless millions of sportsmen and women's own personal triumphs. Certainly not to Naomi Broady who earned herself a guaranteed £43,000 by winning her 1 st round match at Wimbledon yesterday with the prospect of £71,000 if she wins her second round – I hope the stuffed shirts of the LTA take to heart the effect of stripping a 17 year old of her funding for taking part in some filming that at 24 she now regrets. How many of those funded players survive?

So let's tweet away now that Tiger's back – TV ratings and media circulations will rise again and all's well – but is it? I quote James Corrigan once more in The Telegraph who writes:-

“So it is that euphoria will burst down those dollar-decked fairways of the PGA Tour this week as Woods returns, at breakneck - but we must pray not ‘break-back' - speed, to rescue his sport from obscurity, or, as one American columnist said, "the soccer World Cup".

“But what happens when he is gone forever? Remember, Robert Redford in The Candidate mouthing to his campaign manager “what happens now?”

Think on that and hope there is a new Tiger about to burst on the golfing firmament!

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