Catch this Tiger if you can cause it’s history on the green
This week a man who will likely become the greatest champion in the history of world sport has arrived on our shores for the first time since 1998 to play in golf’s Australian Masters.
Amongst the greatest of his contemporaries there are only four who have managed to win three major championships. Tiger has won fourteen.
Tiger is not just the best in the world, he is in a world of his own. Over the course of history sport has blessed us with a handful of such champions such as Ali and Jordan; but with the possible exception of Bradman none has soared so much higher above the rest than Tiger Woods.
To have the chance to witness this man hit a ball in anger is, for Australians, an experience that will be the subject of conversations with grandchildren for decades to come.
After the announcement of Tiger’s attendance, tickets to the Masters sold out in a matter of days. They are now harder to obtain than to the AFL Grand Final. Yet gaining entry to Kingston Heath is only half the battle. What will await spectators is a crush of humanity. Working out how to see Tiger will be a matter of great strategy.
I had the joy of seeing Tiger play last year in America. Arriving at the course I headed for the putting green where I stood against the rope on my own and watched some of the Aussies hit lag putts.
After a while, to my amazement, Tiger arrived. Then, luckily, he chose a hole right in front of me to practice his 10-footers. I was close enough to be his caddy. It was intimate enough that when the putts lipped out I could have offered some advice. The feeling of being in the presence of greatness was pulsating. He was as absorbed in his practice as I was in him. Only when he picked up his three balls and left did I realise I was standing in the front row of a crowd of hundreds.
Out on the course, standing at driving length will offer some of the best pickings. If the occasional wayward drive crosses the ropes there is nothing more special than being next to Tiger’s ball. As Tiger surveys the landscape, assesses his situation, and then effects a miraculous escape, here you will have the opportunity, with absolute proximity, to witness human genius.
To be sure for much of the time a Tiger fan is five rows back, in the middle of a giant huddle, peering over heads, and around shoulders for a glimpse of the great man. It is hot. There is odour. If you are claustrophobic then it is not for you. And after a day of standing on tip toes calf muscles are at risk of completely disintegrating leaving permanent damage.
But there is also a wonderful sense of camaraderie in thousands of people being where they want to be, sharing precisely the same emotions. And when the moment of brilliance occurs – the kind that takes your breath away – the deafening roar that results is so exhilarating that being in the midst of the crush is the only place to be.
Seeing Tiger up close invites the question: what is he like?
On the course Tiger defines intensity. The tighter the contest the more Tiger enters a trance-like world in which he is the sole occupant.
Yet it is exactly this world and intensity which separates Tiger from the pack. It is why, as amazing as it is the amount he wins, it is just as amazing how rarely he finishes outside the top ten. In a notoriously fickle sport Tiger’s intensity means that Tiger always performs. And next week it is a safe bet he will perform for us.
Critics will point to Tiger’s appearance fees. Yet others profit from his sublime skills. The clubs of the Sandbelt are reporting a rush on bookings as golfers in town to see Tiger also play their courses. Viewing audiences are markedly different depending on whether he plays or doesn’t.
Tiger is an industry which literally employs thousands of people and generates wealth for many. Of the money he earns himself a large amount of it now goes to charity.
It is impossible for the rest of us to know the difficulties of remaining grounded in the glare of the brightest spotlight in the world. Yet it appears Tiger has achieved it. I have worked a lot with the Golf industry and I have asked many questions about Tiger the person. By the accounts of those who know him he is a tremendous ambassador for his sport and a great guy.
So if you are lucky enough to have tickets to Kingston Heath: go follow Tiger. He is the real deal.
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