Also published on the Golf Monthly website
I find watching sporting contests often provides an interesting personal insight. Apart from when Scotland or a Scot competes (and let’s face it, they’re not often competitive) I don’t think I have any particular sporting allegiances. I don’t support a football club or rugby team, I don’t have a favourite athlete or swimmer. But I always find I pin my colours to a mast somewhere when sitting in front of the telly.
When I watch the golf, as I do every week, I start out not caring who wins (except if I have a little wager on.) Really though I just enjoy watching some good play over the first couple of days. But by Sunday afternoon there’s always someone I want to come out on top when I properly think about it, and sometimes it surprises me who it is.
Last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational provided a good example. Surely on Sunday evening I was supporting the Brit: a Golf Monthly contributor and all-round good guy Graeme McDowell. I was, I really was. Well, to start with anyway.
The genial Northern Irishman began the day one behind Tiger Woods and I started out feeling disappointment when GMac doubled the first, then excitement when he rolled in a couple of long putts to get back into contention. But these emotions were surface level. Deep down, I knew I wanted Tiger to win. Why? He’s an American up against a Brit, he’s not behaved very well in recent years and he has little time for golfing journalists like me. And, surely he’s won enough over the years.
The thing is: everyone who loves golf loves to see it done as well as it can be. In the history of the game, nobody has ever done it as well as Tiger Woods. To have him back at the peak of his powers is thrilling for golf lovers and for golf on the wider sporting stage.
I want to see Tiger back to that mind-boggling brilliance he displayed at the start of this century. I want to see that type of golf again and, no matter what I think of him as a person – and to be honest I don’t know him as a person so can’t make a fair assessment – I’m excited by the prospect of Tiger firing on all cylinders once more.
It’s particularly exciting at a time when he could go up against other players (British players) who are producing some sublime golf. Luke Donald has never had such self-belief before and he continues to find endless fairways and chip and putt like a magician.
Then there’s Rory McIlroy. He’s clearly able to play the game at a supremely high level – perhaps not yet as masterfully as Woods at his prime, but not far off – see his performance at Congressional last year.
Can you imagine Woods at his best versus Rory at his best? It would be amazing: a golfing version of Federer vs Nadal, Ali vs Frazier. It could happen, it could happen at Augusta, a course that suits both players’ games perfectly.
As Sky Sport News ticked away in the background my brother said to the group of golfers gathered for an early evening pint at my club yesterday, “What do you think of that? Tiger is now favourite for the Masters. That’s crazy, he’s won once for the first time in almost three years and he could still injure himself at any time.”
General consensus though was that Tiger was justifiably favourite. For a start he’s won at Augusta four times, and has another 10 Majors to his name plus 85 further pro victories worldwide. More importantly for me though, at Bay Hill he had that look about him again. That look that says, “I am going to win. I am going to do whatever it takes to win. I don’t care if I do it playing 5-irons for safety or if I have to play a driver off the deck over water to an island green, I am going to win!”
I just hope Tiger produces something like his best at the Masters, and so does Rory, and so does Luke. That would make for some compelling viewing and for some very interesting soul searching in the Bisset household as I consider which player I truly want to win. I think it would be Luke, but maybe not.