FieldsFebruary 22, 2010

Historic Voice Weighs In On Tiger

With so many pundits offering their opinions regarding Tiger Woods' first public appearance since last November, Golf World wondered what golf's first great writer, Bernard Darwin (1876-1961), might have made of the circumstances

I prefer to watch golfers play rather than listen to what they have to say, but on the occasion of Tiger Woods' maiden public utterance since things got so messy, I was quite curious. I have no quarrel with his message generally, but he might have helped his cause had he spoken a bit sooner, for we all had been left to wonder what really had happened that November night.

"There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life," Dickens said, "as the simple truth."

So many seem so intense about the words Woods chose and the order in which he placed them, it is as though he was a man trying to save civilization instead of a marriage, not that the latter isn't a formidable enough challenge in this instance. He didn't look at ease, but it would have been a worry if he had. I believe in this quarter hour he approached courage in a way none of his golf strokes, however eloquent and timely, ever have.

He looked older than I remember, his gravity exaggerating the passage of the years. The fact that he was speaking in Florida, on the ground where his golfing genius first truly came to public attention, while not yet 19 years old, made me a bit sentimental. What a road he has traveled since that afternoon in 1994, on that island green, when he demonstrated as an amateur that he might be a golfer apart from the rest in the manner of Vardon, or Jones, or Hogan!

As with that triumvirate, the splendor of Woods' golf sometimes occupies me on a winter's day. After his mea culpa I thought how he has gilded these last number of seasons with golf seldom seen before. In his manner of playing what he has to offer has so often exceeded what his contemporaries are able to provide that it has seemed routine when actually the reverse is true. Tiger's golfing dash has made him the Young Tommy Morris of his time, as singular as the ferocious storm that hits land once a century or the resonant voice that lingers in the mind long after the next opera has begun.

I was most pleased to hear Woods speaking of respecting the game a bit more, because he has bogeyed his on-course comportment at times. I know, from my own meager competitive jousts, just how much this game can aggravate. Much better for Mr. Woods, however, to forgo the theatrics and get on with things without the pouty epilogues. He does not necessarily have to seem cheery, but nor does his mood need to resemble a cranky lad in need of a nap.

The other good news of 19 February is that Woods does plan to be back in harness, perhaps even this year. Others have, it must be pointed out, come back to golf from much worse. I don't know if Woods' golf will be lacking, but plenty of people will be all a-tiptoe when he does return. In the meantime he should remember what Winston Churchill said: "If you are going through hell, keep going."