There was a fair bit of speculation in the commentary box at the recently concluded PGA Championship about Tiger Woods’ motivation to tee it up despite his obvious pain and discomfort.
As it turned out, Tiger managed to make the cut before shooting his highest round ever at the event—a nine-over—on the third day. The end of that round was marked by yet another first—Woods declined to appear for press interviews—that indicated that all was not well within the Woods camp. Eventually news filtered out that Woods was withdrawing, again unprecedented in his playing career as Major Championships go.
In the commentators booth, analysts voiced concerns that simultaneously echoed across online golf fan forums—Woods hasn’t recovered yet, and why is he risking further damage by returning to competition before his recovery is complete? Another wise golf analyst proffered that Woods would be beset by this injury for the rest of his life and was trying to make the most of whatever playing career he has left.
Now I can’t claim spokesmanship for anyone, let alone Woods, but some facets of the game remain the same whether it’s a seasoned pro or a rank amateur. And while there’s a big difference in the reasons we play golf, it all begins with love for the game. If that leaves you, then you know it’s time to quit the game—golf lore is rife with stories of talented players who quit because they lost their love for the game in the quest of becoming professionals. I think it’s fair to assume that Woods has not lost his love for the game.
Love for golf is a two way relationship. There’s no panacea for life’s ills, but for golfers the game can come pretty close. A bad day at work is quickly washed away if you take french leave to hit the course. And when things aren’t going well in other spheres of our lives, then often, it’s golf that we turn to. I think Woods is trying to play as much as he can, not because he thinks he won’t be able to in the future, or to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record, or to make more money, or any of that. I think he’s playing because he needs to. His life over the past few years has been much like the car wreck he was extricated from two years back. This is a man who’s been to hell and back. He’s doing what pretty much any of us would do—play every chance he gets.
A couple of weeks back there was a news report about our very own Jeev Milkha Singh making a debut on the PGA Champions Tour. Singh lost the two pillars in his life—both his parents—not long back, and has been out of the spotlight since. One can’t possibly imagine what Singh has been through, but this news indicated that he’s making the turn, and getting his life back. For India’s most storied golfer, that life has famously involved a relentless competitive playing schedule. There’s no understating just how good it is to see Jeev back, and on the golf course. Not surprisingly, the debutante missed the cut in his first outing at the ongoing Senior PGA Championship, but that’s hardly the point. Just the fact that he’s out there again, teeing it up is a win for Jeev.
Watching the Champions Tour after a long time was fun too. Here they are—the legends of the game: Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Ernie Els, playing out of their shoes as we remember them doing in their heyday. If the scores this week are anything to go by, then they’ve more than still got it. At the time this piece was being written Scott McCarron sits atop the leaderboard at eight-under par. In so many ways amateurs can learn so much more by watching the Senior Tour players. Some of these are players who’ve transitioned from the regular tour, and there are some who’ve begun their professional careers late in life. Others still have taken long hiatuses from professional golf, only to return to it on the Champions Tour. If anything, there’s even more shotmaking and creativity to be seen on the Champions Tour—when you tire of the uni-dimensional power game on the likes of the PGA Tour, then tune in and have a look.
As a side news report some sports websites reported recently on Michelle Wie’s decision to step away from the game after playing the Women’s US Open next month. Wie who’s been beleaguered by injuries for most of her career, says she finds it difficult because her body can’t keep up with the physical rigour of professional golf, but hasn’t ruled out a comeback. “I’m definitely not ruling anything out,” Wie told Golf.com. It’s only a matter of time if you ask me—Wie enjoys competitive golf way too much to hang up her boots for good.
At the end of the day, most people who play the game—whether they’re 15- or 50-years-old— continue to derive the same pleasure from it. The obsession, lifelong romance, tryst—call it what you will—with the game never loses the power to elevate lives, or, if need be, alleviate pain and loss. Should we choose to indulge it. And that’s the perfect exit line for this piece—it looks like there’s a storm brewing in the skies south of Delhi…best get to the first tee sooner than later.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game.