Justin Thomas won the USPGA Championship at Quail Hollow last night, prevailing by two shots from Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed. The two men who had dominated the headlines before the off, Rory McIlroy (with his terrific track record over the layout) and Jordan Spieth (aiming to complete the career Grand Slam), were respectively nine and ten shots adrift of the new champion. A chip-in for birdie at the 13th gave Thomas a lift up what was at that point a very crowded leaderboard and another birdie at the 17th meant he could afford a bogey five at the last and still win.
“Obviously as a kid growing up, being a golf fan, you want to win all the majors,” said Thomas. “You want to win any major.” Now he has. McIlroy, on the other hand, checked out from the Carolinas suggesting that a rib/back injury could possibly lead to him not playing anywhere again this year. He wants to be sure of being prepared for the next major – the Masters, even though that’s not until April.
But on this weekend something occurred closer to home, in London in fact, which brought to mind another golfer: Tiger Woods. The thing that happened was the retirement of Usain Bolt after the IAAF World Championships at the Olympic Park. The BBC, which I think does not always do these things well (too often too mawkish), ran a tribute narrated by Michael Johnson, a TV analyst now but formerly a great runner before the world had come to terms with just how great a runner Bolt was.
Over one segment, showing Bolt happily enjoying a rapport with his legion of fans, Johnson said: “He took us with him.” And for me that, right there, said it all. Bolt did do that. He celebrated his celebrity and welcomed his fans. We were part of his story and he wanted it to be that way. And Tiger? For him ‘selfie’ was just an abbreviated form of ‘selfish’. These past World Championships didn’t go the way Bolt wanted but, in the bigger picture ( a large selfie?), it doesn’t matter. Part of his legacy is the love he had for his sport and his fans, and they for him. Woods? He’s the guy meandering down a road at some unearthly hour of the night because the police have picked him up for suspected drunk driving.
None of this may matter to Tiger, or his advisers, but it probably should. If you go out having borne yourself with grace, the chances are people will overlook some, maybe all, of the things you might have done better. We should remember Tiger for being the guy who tried to chase down Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors and for being the perpetrator of the most extraordinary golf any of us have ever seen. And we do and we will. But because he didn’t want anyone else near him, and certainly not the public who had helped to make him as rich as Croesus, we equally remember the cocktail waitresses and the cop-cam. He may not like it but they are part of his legacy, too. Unlike Usain, he didn’t take us with him.
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