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 Another Thing

Tiger really isn’t a good driver
The career of perhaps the greatest golfer in history will surely survive this rare setback but the damage to one aspect of his image may never be cured

While I was in Florida for José Maria Olazábal’s induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, a story told elsewhere in these pages, we had a guided tour around the exhibits, which include a huge display of artifacts involving Bob Hope. Among these was the well-known footage of Tiger Woods’ appearance with Hope on the Mike Douglas show in 1978, when he was two. If you watch the clip on YouTube, you’ll see that his driving was impeccable.

In Florida lately, Tiger’s driving was not so hot. If you don’t know the story by now, then welcome back from Mars or (for female readers) Venus. I’m also aware that between me typing these words, dispatching them into the ether and them appearing in print, a heck load more might have happened. For instance, Tiger might have talked to the police.

In essence, of course, Woods drove away from his home in the early hours of the morning after Thanksgiving. As you do. A few headlines summed up the situation. (Perhaps there should be an ‘alleged’ in there somewhere?) The Times had: “Woods drives Cadillac into tree at 2am” and “Tiger stays in his bunker as police wait”. The Sunday Times went with “Tiger was fleeing his angry wife’” and “Crouching Tiger, hidden hydrant”, a slightly bizarre movie connection – unless they’re suggesting he thought the hydrant was a dragon – coupled with a reference to what he drove into.

Those examples are without the more lurid ones in the tabloids, let alone what the National Enquirer or celeb-gossip site TMZ were saying in the States. By the beginning of the following week,Woods had had more than enough and withdrew from his own tournament in California.

His cause was not helped by a car-crash of a press statement in which he said his wife had “acted courageously”. How? By approaching her husband and a stationary vehicle armed with what we are told brings a new meaning to the term ‘rescue club’?

However this story develops, what happened has opened Woods up to something that I suspect in his mind will be worse than excessive publicity, envy or – for whatever reason – dislike. It has made him an object of ridicule. Eradicating that may prove to be beyond even his extraordinary powers of control.

The exploits of he and his car have been a delight for cartoonists. I’m not suggesting that the allegations concerning another woman (or women) are true, but in a matter that seems more appropriate for the RAC than the R&A, I doubt any starter any time soon will be itching to say “Play Away” to Tiger Woods.

In defence of the family’s explanation of what occurred, golf clubs do have form in this arena. In Stieg Larsson’s famous book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the heroine uses a golf club to save her man from certain death. With Nick Faldo’s Porsche, his enraged former girlfriend…oh sorry, no, that was something different.

In his last tournament before the escapade, Woods won in Australia, his seventh victory of the season, but he had seemed notably disengaged the week before in Shanghai, and not only because he was playing second fiddle to Phil Mickelson. Latterly, too, the swearing and club-throwing seem to have been turned up a tad. I’m not being Freudian here, but certainly something more than his takeaway has appeared to be on his mind.

At the Bob Hope exhibit, they also show Tiger attempting a three-foot putt, which he left very short. Missing such putts was something Woods didn’t suffer very often again until recently, as when he failed to ward off Y. E. Yang down the stretch at the USPGA Championship.

Back then, as a young child, he picked the ball up, put it down right next to the hole so that it was impossible to miss, and tapped it in, almost as if to say: “Well, that won’t be happening again.” How he must wish that, as an adult, he could have a mulligan with this drive that went horribly O-O-B.

And so on to another Gillette client. Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland in the World Cup qualifier in Paris in November caused quite a controversy, setting up what proved to be a decisive goal that should not have stood. But why all the fuss? As Ireland’s winger, Damien Duff, said afterwards: “I don’t think you can blame Henry. If it was myself or Robbie [Keane] down the other end, we would have tried it. You just expect the linesman or the referee to see it.”

In every sport except golf and, I think, snooker, that attitude would be the norm. In golf, you call the penalties on yourself. In pretty much everything else, you get away with what you can – even if you’re Thierry Henry.

January 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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