When Tiger Woods was signing himself into a clinic for an apparent sex addiction problem a couple of years ago after shanking his marriage to a Swedish au pair on the heaving mounds of a few more birdies, there is a fair chance most blokes were privately thinking: "What is the problem?"
After a season in which Woods has won three tournaments in America, finished in the top 10 in another seven and rose to the lofty position of the world's second best player, one has the right to ask: what is the problem?
Some of the stuff penned about Woods in the aftermath of Team America's agonising Ryder Cup loss to Europe at Chicago's Medinah Country Club on Sunday has been fantastical. But that has not halted several commentators dusting down their blunderbusses. The majority of it is clichéd nonsense that fails to consider Woods's glorious return to prominence after he seemed lost to golf when his private life became fodder for the gossip columns.
The wholesome image of Woods the family man and devoted husband began to burn when he drove a Cadillac SUV into a tree some three years ago with his wife apparently swapping a rolling pin for a golf club somewhere in the background. It has dwindled to the stump of today where no amount of public relations work would bring back the persona of Tiger that sponsors once salivated over. Why would he want to? Rather than being a bland, monotone figure, Tiger comes across as an egocentric, short-tempered womaniser, who is prone to bouts of industrial language, grumpiness and bad manners. It does not detract from his brilliance as a golfer.
One is not conveying the message that philandering is good for the soul, but who really cares if he likes to cash in his chips with various bits of stuff? As long as it does not affect his golf game, it is his business. People pay to watch him play golf, not give a lesson on morality.
Woods continues to attract unwarranted criticism when he fails to attain the heights of yesteryear. But is he really poorer than his peak years? Woods never dominated golf. Nobody has or will dominate golf. He only won more trophies than others, particularly specialising in the Majors. The hectic, constant nature of golf gives everybody a chance to be bedecked in jewels somewhere in the world on any given Sunday.
People continue to beat Woods over the head with his losing Ryder Cup record, but such a team event is anathema to regular tournaments which reward sound technique over four days and 72 holes. It is foreign to the 18-hole sprint of match play where you can be rendered impotent before the turn.
America's latest failure is a collective issue. Woods is an easy target because the expectation levels are greater surrounding him than his team-mates.
Whether or not he was aware of the situation governing the match, Woods deserved applause for conceding the putt of Francesco Molinari on the final green seconds after Europe had reached the 14 points required to retain the Ryder Cup. The trophy was already lost.
It was an act of sportsmanship in keeping with the spirit of golf. If any figure earned condemnation, it was US captain Davis Love III for choosing to send out Woods in the final match of the singles. Woods's loss to Constantino Rocca at Valderrama in 1997 remains his only shortfall in Ryder Cup singles. He has always been viewed as a form of big game when buddied up in the foursomes and fourballs.
Various European sides have rejoiced in taking down Tiger, but that has not been considered over the past few days. One correspondent on a British broadsheet claimed Woods was too old for the Ryder Cup which was a bit of a zany meaning to take out of the happenings at Medinah. Only Rory McIlroy is ahead of Tiger Woods in the world rankings and the US money list. His stroke average of 68.904 from 69 rounds is behind only McIlroy's 68.873 from 60 rounds in the States. At 36, the same age as Woods, Ian Poulter is hardly creaking.
Repetitive and predictable noises coming from figures such as Colin Montgomerie and Butch Harmon, his former coach, about Woods losing it - the Tiger of old wouldn't have missed that drive, chip, putt, etc, etc, repeat to fade - are clichéd and tedious. When he ended up howling after a cactus clamped to a foot after a shot in the third round of the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in August, Monty berated him for being wimpish. This was coming from a figure who once told a cameraman that he was only working at a tournament because he was playing in it.
It reminded me of a truly mind-numbing article regarding David Beckham in one of the broadsheets a few years ago. Beckham, who declared on 115 caps, was at the time stuck on 99 for England after being initially shunned by Steve McClaren, yet his failure to pass the century was written about as if he had failed. The same thing could be said about Tiger Woods and his 14 majors. He remains four adrift of Jack Nicklaus's total of 18. If Tiger never wins another Major, he could retire content.
Would a Poulter or Monty trade in some of their stockpile of Ryder Cup glitter in return for Woods's standing? Majors are the ultimate event despite the Ryder Cup's ongoing allure. Nobody remembers Nicklaus in the Ryder Cup.
Ask Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, who washed up in Chicago at the weekend to sell the wares of Gleneagles as the next Ryder Cup venue, if he wants Woods on the US side. Woods draws galleries like no other figure.
There will never be another Woods. It remains a wonderful fact of life that a black man remains the greatest figure to dominate a traditional preserve of middle class white guys. We should all enjoy watching Woods as he continues to chase the four Majors he needs to tie Nicklaus. So what if he does Ryder Cups about as well as he does marriage? What is the problem?
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods