By Larry Canning
LOVE him, hate him, or just sleep with him, there is no denying, I miss Tiger Woods.
I know my critics will jump up and say – “I reckon Rory is doing OK at the head of the class at the moment and it’s brilliant to have had another Aussie alongside Greg Norman and Karrie Webb, to have risen to numero uno in the world as Scotty did earlier in the year.”
And I agree. Rory is exactly what the game needed to carry on from a Tigerless Tour with his spectacular array of power golf, brilliant short game and down to earth, “I’m just a normal young bloke who happens to have more natural talent than just about any other human to have laced up a pair of spikes”.
Tiger at his peak was superb, relentless and something to behold. When he played in Australia in 2009, the country stopped for a week and took in the “Tiger show” and he didn’t let us down. Right from the start, it was clear Woods was here for one reason only… well two if you count Rachael Uchitel. And I suppose three when you consider how much he was paid to be here.
Ok, so it was clear Tige was here for only three reasons. One of them was to win the Australian Masters! And win he did. I covered that tournament for radio and quite frankly, I’d never seen anything quite like it. If there were 40,000 people at the course each day, 39,000 were with one group. It was never difficult to find that 3 ball either, all you had to do was track the 300 metre cloud of grey dust moving above the tree line and he’d be at the bottom of it.
Although the fairways and greens at Kingston Heath had been significantly watered to soften it up for the American, the rough was as dry as a Tony Abbot joke which meant every fairway was surrounded by that famous Sand Belt grey coloured dirt. Put 39,000 golf fans literally running up through it to gain a rare peak at the Champ up close and it was nothing short of stifling. I fully expected Tige to front up on the first tee on the weekend dressed like Neil Armstrong.
I remember standing inside the ropes behind Woods on the practice fairway before Saturdays round, watching him go through his warm up. I got a nudge in the back from an obviously irate spectator suggesting I should move my fat head out of the way as he had been waiting there for an hour. I spun around, hoping this bloke couldn’t fight (and I suddenly could), only to see one, Mike Cahill standing there with a big cheesy smile on his face.
For those young readers, Mike Cahill was a very talented Aussie tour player from the 70’s and 80’s. Mike first came to prominence when he lost a play-off for the 1975 Westlake Classic to Bob Shearer in Adelaide then went on to win the Aussie PGA a couple of years later.
Mike had played with the very best in the world but he and I agreed, Woods practice session was nothing short of pure genius. This was made even more remarkable when in Tiger’s post round press conference, he remarked on how badly he had warmed up resulting in his quite hideous round of 72 in blustery winds at The Heath.
Sunday’s round of 68, again in windy conditions, put paid to any challenge from his pursuers and he wound up getting it done by two from the world’s best bloke, Greg Chalmers.
Despite his disregard for some of the golf’s unwritten moral principles, like spitting on a green, tossing a driver into the gallery and celebrating a holed putt like a cage fighter right after he has left some poor bloke lying on the canvas with a nose now pointing inwards, Tiger Woods opened the game of golf up to a whole new demographic.
I also believe his 14 majors in an era where technology has narrowed the gap between the extraordinarily talented and the grinder having a good week is equal to that of Nicklaus’s 18.
Bring back the Tiger! … I say.
Even if it’s only for Rory and Adam to beat.
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