I wasn’t going to mention Tiger, having left that to Maureen but it’s impossible not to because they’re talking about golf on 5 Live, Radio 2 and writing about it in the newspapers, places where the game is usually now treated as a four-letter word, not to be mentioned without the use of asterisks instead of letters. And it’s all TW’s fault, the mentions that is, not the asterisks. He’s looking well too, if the photos are anything to go by. Fit, beaming, unrecognisable from the sad, dead-eyed face in the police mug shots of not so long ago.
Tiger played golf to win, with a one-eyed, single-minded determination that raged like a forest fire. Beth Daniel once said of Betsy King, a committed Christian and a controlled, outwardly more or less emotionless competitor, always on an even keel: “Betsy burns inside.” Tiger burned inside and out, never hiding the fierce and fearsome competitor.
He loved the battle and he loved winning but above all he loved – and still loves – the game. Somehow or other, for some reason or another, it got under his skin, it implanted itself in his DNA, in his gut, wormed its way into his very core. When his carapace was at its hardest and most impenetrable, the only possible way to get a wee glimpse of the human being inside, behind the public mask, was to ask about a particular shot, be it an all-out, Daisy-pulled-it-off effort that defied belief or an apparently more straightforward effort that Tiger pulled off so perfectly that it was easy to miss the degree of difficulty and the skill, precision and nerve involved.
When it comes down to it, he’s just like the rest of us: a poor, besotted golf tragic.
In the first round in the Bahamas yesterday, Tiger returned a very respectable 69, three under par, more than enough to keep everyone interested.
Elsewhere in the world, there’s still lots of golf going on, in shirt sleeves in Australia and Mauritius, which looks lovely on the telly when you’re feeling the chill here in England and other parts of the currently disunited kingdom; at Daytona Beach in Florida where there’s the nerve-wracking final stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament; and in Japan, in Nagoya, at Miyoshi Country Club, there’s the Queens presented by Kowa, a women’s team event between the tours of Japan, Europe, Australia and (South) Korea, the powerhouse of women’s golf. I won’t even try and explain the exact format but it’ll be tough and competitive and whoever wins will have played good golf.Out in Oz, Alastair Cook, England batsman supreme (though suckered out hooking early in the second innings of the first Ashes test in Brisbane), prepared for the second test in Adelaide by having his first-ever hole-in-one, at Royal Adelaide I believe, though Kooyonga GC is also lovely and would be a fantastic place to have your first ace. A lot of cricketers are good golfers and find the game easy, up to a point but, often, not as easy as they think they should. They’re still hooked though (sorry Alastair).
Closer to home, we had our Christmas comp at Whittington Heath on Tuesday, which was still in November but, hey ho, ho, ho, sometimes that’s the way the diary crumbles. Seasonal jumpers were not obligatory but even those of us who like to wait until December to start the countdown made the effort. I had to go in search of something cheap and cheerful, previous garments having fallen apart, run out of battery life or shrunk in the wash. My sensible Scottish streak resented that I had to sneak into double figures price-wise but given the dancing classes on Mondays (thanks to my partner Mike and our fellow dancers and teacher Sam for their patience and forbearance) and the addiction to Strictly, how could I resist it?