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Still faithful to golf at least
Tiger Woods is merely the latest in a long line of golfers who have had more than the odd hiccup in their marriage. Which would make the better team - the stay-marrieds or the divorced?

There is a saying among those who have an almost unhealthy addiction to the weather, referring to the month of March: “It came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.” As for January 2010, it certainly came in, if not like a lion then as a prehistoric mammoth. For 30 years the Alliss family have lived on the borders of Surrey and Hampshire and we have never experienced such a fall of snow and with it days, nay weeks, of frozen weather, which looks beautiful but after a time gets very tedious.

Thank goodness for Sky and the ability to watch the fortunes of the world’s golfers in far-flung places, playing in bright sunshine and almost looking as if they were enjoying it. This year promises to be full of interest and comment but there’s no doubt that over the past few weeks not only the world of golf but the world of sport has been dominated by Tiger Woods and his ‘misdoings’. It’s quite extraordinary when you think of it but all the golfing deeds, some of them great, during the 2009 season paled into insignificance when tales of his infidelities came to light – so much speculation (and that’s all much of it has been) about how, when, where and with whom.

Many years ago, when Muhummad Ali was battling with the US government on the rights and wrongs of the war in Vietnam, newspapers throughout the world were full of negative stories about him, Ali was stripped of his boxing titles and humiliated by many in high places. It was a very different set of circumstances from those surrounding Woods, whose exploits have covered more media column inches than the umpteen marriages of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, but similar in their intensity.

A number of people have put forward their thoughts on how Tiger will combat his problems – will it be bravado or humility? I got to thinking that sometimes the break-up of a family creates so much pain that some participants slink away, never to recapture the wondrous form of yesterday. And, just for the hell of it, I made up two golf teams – a contest between those players who’ve gone through the agonies of divorce and others who haven’t, and on balance the two are pretty evenly matched, albeit it’s hard to compare those who got divorced when it was very unfashionable to do so compared to those in today’s society
where getting divorced, or not even bothering to get married, is not far from the norm.

First, those who managed to avoid the divorce courts, captained by the redoubtable Jack Nicklaus. Add to him the names of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, John Jacobs, Johnny Miller, Ray Floyd, Nick Price, Phil Mickelson, Erne Els and Tony Jacklin – great names all. And there, waiting in the wings, would be the likes of Sir Bob Charles, Christy O'Connor, Kel Nagle, Padraig Harrington, Dai Rees, Neil Coles
and Bernard Hunt. Wow, what a combination!

The gloriously gifted Seve Ballesteros had his share of problems in his personal life, which would make him an ideal captain for the Divorced Team in the author's match

I wondered how they would measure up to those who've experienced the expense and sometimes humiliation of the divorce courts, led by Seve Bellesteros. The names of Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, John Daly, Doug Sanders, Colin Montgomerie, Greg Norman, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Sam Torrance, Howard Clark and yours truly come quickly to mind. Among those on the sidelines would be Doug Sanders, Mark Calcavecchia, Peter Thomson and Bobby Locke.

Infidelity, infidelity, so much infidelity. One name missing from either list is Tiger. Will he and Elin manage to patch up this disastrous period in their marriage? It would certainly be a minor miracle if they could. The odds must be against them and if the worst happens he would surely make my team! If not, it would be the other one.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and pontificate about the ins and outs of fidelity, remembering the words of the marriage service, as in “Do you take this man/woman for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part”, etc.

All good, sound stuff, but it takes a very special sort of man to turn aside from temptation when aroused. There are certain parts of the male physique which have no conscience. Thoughts of a wonderful home life, delightful children, an adoring wife who makes the most wonderful roast potatoes and superb gravy are pushed into the shadows for a 10-minute (if you’re lucky) fling which can cause so much pain. Some say it’s the law of the jungle, but is it? Whether you’re a lion or an ape, the deed is done, a good shake, and off to the next conquest, if one is available.

This promises to be a more than interesting season but I bet there are many who, over the past months, while reading about the exploits of Tiger Woods, have thought ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I.’

March 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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