By James Turnage
I will be watching the British Open, which begins Thursday. It is a major tournament, but that is far from why I’ll be glued to my television.
Golf has become an athletic event. When I was young, there were maybe two or three who I would have called athletes. It was a game. Maybe it was the hardest game in the world, but still a game. Today’s players, younger and stronger than ever before, have far superior equipment than their predecessors did. But it’s what they can do on the toughest courses, making the most difficult shots, and doing it all consistently that is making the game a sport.
When Tiger Woods arrived on the PGA tour, he was the greatest thing to happen to this very old game. He won often, and he won easily. Today, we have Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Matt Kucher and Hunter Mahan, just to name a few. Because the competition is so close, we may never see what Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger accomplished in the game in the remainder of its history.
The story here is still Tiger. If he has the lowest score at the end of Sunday’s final round, he will once again be anointed by the sports press as the “greatest golfer of all time.” I don’t think it matters with the exception of the fact that those who play on the same course with him, in the same tournaments, are not intimidated by him as some were in the past. It is still one man against his own demons. His challenge may be greater than ever before: to become the number one golfer in the world. I believe that is truly his only real ambition.
This year, he has had both great success and dismal failure. When he is in control of his game, he is still more fun to watch, shot by shot, than anyone else on the tour. Tiger fans should be proud of themselves, not ashamed. He’s not a God, he is only a man, and that, we can all relate to. Maybe he is just maturing, finally. No matter what, it should be great television.