Tomorrow sees the publication of the latest biography of Tiger Woods. Imaginatively called Tiger Woods, it apparently accords its subject’s late father, Earl Woods, way less respect than has been the previous norm. It seems the co-authors, Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, also devote as much detail to Woods’ hitting on cocktail waitresses as to his hitting of 4-irons. And their timing has proved pretty impeccable. Tiger’s two starts this month have resulted in a tie for second and a tie for fifth. Notwithstanding that he hasn’t won a tournament for five years, a major championship for ten nor the Masters for 13, it is possible that he will tee off at Augusta on Thursday week as the tournament favourite, this especially likely to be so if Dustin Johnson again falls down the stairs at his rental home and has to withdraw.
Still on major news, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has announced that from hereon, in the event of two or more players finishing tied after 72 holes, there will no longer be an 18-hole playoff the next day – which means that Woods’ victory in overtime against Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in 2008 will be the last one of those. Everyone other than USGA sticklers in blazers, who sometimes would mumble something about “the integrity of the game”, have been urging this for decades. People turn up on Sunday wanting to see a winner, players included. And given that the US Open went to sudden-death in the event that the playoff finished level after 18 holes…well, I think the game’s integrity had already taken the first courtesy car home. The format is quirky, though: it will be over two holes before going into extra holes if necessary. Given that regulation playoffs at the Masters are one hole, the USPGA Championship three holes and the Open Championship four, I guess the USGA didn’t want to be accused of being anyone’s copycat.
Meanwhile, as regards the Open on this side of the Atlantic, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) has said, to the surprise of absolutely no one, that the 2021 championship will be played over the Old Course at St Andrews, this on the 150th anniversary of the Open. They have not declared re 2022, which will surely be in England, but they cannot put off forever announcing for 2023. On any normal basis, this would go to the west coast of Scotland, and it would be the turn of Turnberry, whose owner is Tiger’s occasional golfing partner, the President of the United States. Although it has apparently been pretty much understood all round that if this were to happen there would be no ‘Trump Turnberry’ branding, if the Open does not go there in 2023 then it is bound to appear that this is because the R&A thinks it’s wrong for its championship to be played over a course owned by a head of state (though the Queen has never sought a game at Royal Birkdale) or that it would be wrong for it go to a course owned by that head of state. While Donald Trump may not be in office by 2023, the R&A will not be able to fudge taking a decision until they know the answer to that one.
Finally, sticking with golf’s governing bodies (the R&A and USGA), one occurrence at last week’s WGC/Dell Technologies Match Play tournament would add further fuel to the fire that is the notion they have for too long overlooked the impact of technology (albeit not the sort Dell specialises in) on the professional game. On one hole, the aforementioned Mr Johnson hit a drive 489 yards. No, that’s not a typo. Mind you, he still lost…
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