When Tiger Woods tees up at Augusta National this week in the sports world’s occasion of the year, he will find an entirely different atmosphere to the one he left behind five months ago.
He will find a crowd awaiting his appearance ready to applaud or turn its back on him. How he reacts to the for and against sections will be carefully watched. He might very well really need his minders and bodyguards. Perhaps he never did need them in the first place. Was it all part of the image making? Certainly, no other golfer around him needed burly protection, yet they all put up with Woods’ entourage. Playing in the same group with Woods carried a heavy handicap — and that didn’t always draw sympathy from the game’s leading player.
Woods was often carelessly inconsiderate when in action. Politeness was not part of his etiquette. He was good at rude gestures of a clenched fist in the world’s face. There was too often petulance and ill-humour. Woods’ intense concentration during his competitive rounds left no time to attend to the finer points of this polite game. Winning was everything, beating his opponents into the dust the main aim of the sport. Now, in his re-appearance, things should be different.
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For one thing, the tolerance of his fellow tourists might be strained and words might be said. In the new scene, there should be more attention to good manners considering what has gone on. Can it be true that he will continue his therapy? What about the good old services of the tried and proven bromide? It worked for the army all those years!
The tour will be healthier if it learns to be less reliant on one star, even if it means scaling down in size. If the rest of the travellers have to make do with less take-home pay, it might be a fair thing all round. They just might have to play more often to make up the shortfall. Other sports stars don’t seem to take so many weeks off. Is golf so much more strenuous than other sports that its practitioners need more rest periods? I wonder.
Whatever the outcome at Augusta, whether Woods wins or loses, there should be a real change of emphasis. The rest of the field will have lost their fear and perhaps their respect for the man who once dominated their sport. Woods’ manners will improve — and that will be a good thing for the game.
*Peter Thomson captained the international team in three Presidents cups, in 1996, 1998 and 2000, the last two against the Tiger Woods-led Americans. He is a golf columnist for Back Page Lead