It was only to be expected, I suppose – all the hyperbolic, over-the-top reaction to Tiger’s win at The Masters – and, of course, it has reignited the debate as to whether Tiger can overhaul, or even equal, Jack Nicklaus’ tally of 18 major wins. Well, he can’t and he won’t, in my opinion. The big cat currently sits on a total of 15 majors so he still requires what for most would be a whole career’s worth of major wins simply to draw level. It’s not going to happen.
Tiger is 43 years of age and has undergone four knee surgeries and four back surgeries. He is the one who was convinced by a Harley Street specialist two years ago that there was one more back procedure worth trying. There won’t be any coming back from his next injury, which, considering the strains put on the body by the modern golf swing is almost inevitable, bearing in mind what he’s already been through. The slimmed-down schedule he now plays means that he may very well not tee it up between the majors, coming as they do at near monthly intervals. Consider as well that there are at least two handfuls of players capable of winning any major and they are not ALL going to capitulate again and allow a final round of 70 to scoop the big prize as they did at Augusta.
In my view Tiger, given a fair wind, may have around a dozen major appearances left in him and we should enjoy them, luxuriating in watching a supreme sportsman for as long as we can. We are all on borrowed time here so let’s sit back and enjoy whatever it brings and not stress about records that are not going to be broken.
This year, prior to the Masters, Augusta National Golf Club hosted the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the 30 out of the 72 women who made the cut became the first females to tee it up competitively at this erstwhile men-only establishment. One such player was world No 18, Olivia Mehaffey, currently studying at Arizona State University and a member at Royal County Down Ladies Golf Club. The only Irish invitee, Mehaffey acquitted herself with her customary style and grace and was effusive about her week in Augusta.
“This was such a special week and being part of it and seeing the support for women’s golf means a lot. It really motivates me to continue to make a difference in this sport and compete at the highest level.” She added, “All in all, this was a week I will never forget. I’m just so grateful to have had the chance to play in this historic event.”It’s a special time for Royal County Down Ladies Golf Club. Not only is their favourite daughter’s star in the ascendancy – Olivia won the prestigious collegiate Pac 12 Championship ten days after her Augusta debut – but this year they celebrate 125 years of women’s golf at Royal County Down and I’m delighted to be going over to speak at their dinner this weekend.
The club and the place have always been special to Patricia and me and was very much interwoven into the fabric of our own golfing education. Patrica used to travel to the club to have lessons from the pro, renowned coach and player, Ernie Jones. The pair of them would head off to the practice ground for a couple of hours and chortle and laugh for a good hour and a half with a total flurry of golfing activity for a mere 30 minutes. They both loved the time they spent together on the course and Ernie, ever the gentleman, was never anything but fulsome in his praise of her efforts.
For my part, I played in a couple of Ulster Championships at Newcastle and remember once taking a local caddy for the week. As we were doing quite well a press photographer came out on to the course to snap a few pictures. One appeared in the local paper the next day of me striding down the fairway with my caddy. I thought it was a pretty good picture but he was apoplectic with rage – how was he going to be able to go and collect his dole money next week when he was plastered all over the sports pages? He seemed to blame me and I recall the next few rounds being played in a frosty silence as his flat cap was pulled ever lower over his face!
Twenty-five years ago the club produced a lovely booklet – a “memoire” of their first 100 years – beautifully researched and written by Mary Bruce and Harry McCaw. The tale told was of a group of resourceful, strong, independent-minded women. I look forward to future additions to this memoire covering the last 25 years. It will be a pleasure, too, to meet the current members of this special club that has played such a significant part with its contribution to the game in terms of both golfing talent and administrative ability. There’s a fun weekend in store.