Tiger Woods: Lucky To Be Alive

I was writing this post about Tiger under a different title when the dreadful news about his involvement in the car crash in Los Angeles came in. His agent, Mark Steinberg said that Tiger had surgery for multiple leg injuries. Another car crash, the third. .

If this latest challenge does finish Tiger’s career at 45 years old, you might like to read to the end and see how recent research from Golf Digest says definitively that Tiger Woods is the greatest tournament player of all time. He has many more wins than Sam Snead, they arent tied on equal footing. Honours even then – Jack Nicklaus has the most majors, and Tiger has more wins.

On Tuesday night Woods released a statement on his Twitter feed describing the “long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle.” In the accident, Dr. Anish Mahajan said, Woods fractured “upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones.” He also sustained “additional injuries to the bones in his foot and ankle,” as well as “trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg.”

“I can say it was fortunate that Mr. Woods came out of this alive,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy Carlos Gonzales, who first approached Woods in his car and spoke with him but, noting his injuries, waited for fire department personnel to extricate him.

The fragility of life, even for the greatest of all time.

This is what I was writing at the time.

“Good to see Tiger Woods back last week even if just as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera CC.

Asked on TV if he would be ready to play by The Masters Tiger replied “God, I hope so,”

Tiger had a microdiscectomy Dec. 23. It was the fifth surgery on his back, and the first since a procedure to fuse his lower spine in April 2017.

“I’m feeling fine,” Woods said. “I’m a little bit stiff. I have one more MRI scheduled so that we’ll see if the annulus (fibrosus) is scarred over finally and see if I can start doing more activities. But still in the gym, still doing the mundane stuff that you have to do for rehab, the little things before I can start gravitating towards something a little more.”

“There’s no timetable for coming back, I have to be very careful getting out of bed, tying shoes. I’ve been strengthening my core”.

Woods has not played since he joined his 11-year-old son Charlie at the PNC Challenge a few days before his surgery.

“I don’t know what the plan is,” he said when asked if he would try to play before the Masters.

Why would Tiger want to come back? He has done everything except reach the magic 19 major championships to exceed the 18 of Jack Nicklaus, and he equals Sam Snead’s record of 82 tournament wins. Perhaps that’s the motivation. To beat Sam Snead’s record and become the Greatest of all time in wins on the PGA Tour.

But, with all credit to Alex Myers of Golf Digest, records show Tiger’s already beaten Slamming Sammy’s record by a long way. Here’s how.

Some of Sam Snead’s tournament wins don’t match up to today’s standards.

The 1937 Crosby tournament was shortened to 18 holes because of weather. There were three 36 hole triumphs -today the PGA Tour only counts 54 hole curtailed tournaments as official.

The 1946 World Championship of Golf had only 4 players in the field. 5 other victories had 16 or fewer players and 5 were team events.

So, to level the playing field

Tiger had five victories in the Hero World Challenge which haven’t been counted. Although only 18 players in the field, the last time it was played 16 of the top 23 in the world.

He has 7 wins in the Grand Slam of Golf a 36 hole event of 4 golfers (compare with Snead who won the 1946 World Championship of Golf against 3 oponents).

Two team titles in the World Cup of Golf 1999 and 2000 with Mark O’Meara and David Duval.

On this basis of parity Tiger has 95 wins.

Tiger Woods is definitively the Greatest Golfer of all time.

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Max Homa’s wife says the right thing

Max Homa came off the 18th green at Riviera on Sunday after missing a three foot putt to win and had to go to a play off with Tony Finau. He called his wife Lacey on his way to the first playoff hole and told her that he had choked.

She gave succinct advice. “Forgive Quickly”.

Homa is a rather self deprecating player, the words got through to him. He survived an adventurous playoff to win at the second hole. This included being almost stymied against a tree and having to hit a 50 degree wedge through thick kikuyu grass to get to the green.

It was an impressive show of mental resillience. It reminded me of Bernhard Langer in his prime overcoming putting yips and bouncing back from some terrible missrs. All the technique in the world, hard work and practice, if the attitude isn’t right it remains the missing piece.

Two simple words. We all need to forgive our misses in life and on the golf course, and forgive them quickly so we can recover and move on. Good advice for any golfer.

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Another male only golf product

Following on from outing newsagents WH Smith on social media for displaying golf magazines in their “Men’s Interests” section – which I’m pleased to see they no longer do, I have found another “single sex golf product”.

We are still in lockdown in the UK but we are lucky to still have Garden Centres open and trading. A trip to the local Garden Centre becomes a rare outing. People dress up in their best clothes, put make up on and inspect every last item in the shop to make the outing the most enjoyable thing they’ll experience that week.

So inspecting all the weird and wonderful things amongst the plants and flowers, basically quite a lot of tat, my eyes fixed on this product above.

A collapsable putting set to keep in your office drawer, in case you have a spare moment for a putt between meetings.

And how was it branded? “Chap’s Delight. Really Useful Gifts For Gentlemen”.

The assumption being that only men play golf.

A drawing of a man using the putter. References to a high powered CEO in films wearing red braces shouting about mergers.

Who wrote this copy? Someone who has never played golf, only knows cliches about it, makes assumptions and sticks this on the packet “Chap’s Delight” meaning a “gentleman” will be chuffed to get it as a gift.

I bought it, me a female, and not as a present to delight a chap.

Giving the company £24.99 for it. It was rather cheaply constructed. So I took the three parts and stuck them in the pots of the three plants that I had bought so they could grow against the putter.

I wasn’t going to use it. I’m not a chap, therefore according to this company I do not play golf, only men do.

Back to the drawing board this company. You are perpetuating the faulty image of golf.

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LGBT+ Month: In golf better to be a woman than a man

This month is also LGBT+ month. I thought about this when I looked at the LPGA’s home page and saw a picture of a double bride wedding of a tour player and her female caddie.

I then saw an article about the only Formula One driver who ever came out and thought that is exactly the same in golf.

Why is it that there are so many openly gay players in the women’s game, but not in the men’s? 

I asked a top professional this some years ago. He replied  “there are no gay players on tour, it would be very difficult for them if there were”. 

Golf in the men’s game doesn’t accurately reflect society with an estimated 10% of the population identifying as LGBT+. So it is possible that there may be a few, but if so, they are in deep cover. To date only one PGA Tour player, Tadd Fujikowa, has come out.

Nevertheless there have been two instances where the PGA Tour and the PGA of America have stepped in and dealt with people who made homophobic slurs. So there is acknowledgement that the gay community be respected.

In 2014 PGA of America President Ted Bishop was sacked for making two remarks on social media about Ian Poulter behaving “like a little girl”. Although at the time it was referred to as a derogatory remark, it implies that Poulter was behaving in an effeminate way, so it is also something else.

And this year Justin Thomas lost sponsors after being heard on a greenside television microphone at the Sentry Tournament of Champions calling himself a homophobic word after he missed a putt.

Two quite different scenarios – one was directed at someone, the other called himself something. But the implication was the same, effeminacy and being a homosexual is not ok. What was said was never ok.

Justin Thomas apologised immediately and owned up:

“It’s not a word that I use, but for some reason it was in there. I’m going to figure out why it was in there”.

Not trying to justify what he did but questioning, was that really homophobic or was it really about the act of swearing? It may be that it wasn’t “in there” for any other reason than the word had a satisfying sound to berate himself with. Perhaps he just didn’t think about what he said. Golfers do need a substitute – a groan, grunt, agggh, – but don’t attach words to the sound, when the swear words can be hate words, violent slurs, or sexual words, or words to describe the man’s nether reasons, so often heard on golf courses when shots don’t go to plan.

But that particular word has most hurtful and disrespectful connotations for a gay person. And professional athletes as role models that shouldn’t give out the message to the world that it’s ok to use that word and the word spreads by acceptance.

I digress. Because the point really is, why is it that female gay professional golfers are widely accepted so that there is an almost cultural association? This blog has chronicled some of my own experiences on my long golf journey, but one that I found hard to laugh off was this. A man once thought it was funny to speak to me thus:

“You like golf. Youse one of them dykes on spikes then? Ha ha ha ha ha”

The triple whammy of sexist, homophobic and ungrammatical. I calmly answered him truthfully. 

“I also like the Eurovision Song Contest. But I am still straight”.

But for those who are gay amateur golfers in the UK there are three golf societies where they can play alongside other LGBT+ players – the Girls In Golf Society, the Irons Society, both London and South East based, and the BLAGGS society in Brighton.

To return to professional golf, when David Feherty declared to Brandt Snedeker on his TV programme that “there are no gay golfers on tour” Snedeker denied it. “I don’t believe that at all. I don’t think that a gay golfer is going to be that big of a deal, it’s not going to affect my life”. Perhaps not but it’s going to be a very big deal for the male professional who comes out and will affect his life going forward.

When Tadd Fujikowa, did finally declare himself gay, he was commended for his “inspirational bravery” but his coming out statement on Instagram is actually sad to read.

“I look forward to the day we can all live without feeling like we’re different and excluded… Pretending, hiding, hating who I was, afraid of what others would think. I’ve struggled with my mental health”.

Where is Tadd now? We never see him on television, certainly he has kept a very low profile since.

In 72 jurisdictions around the world it is still a criminal offence to be a LGBT+ person in a same sex relationship. In 11 of those countries the death penalty applies. One of these countries is Saudi Arabia where the Saudi International golf tournament was held three weeks ago. Another difficulty for any male pro who willingly comes out, he certainly couldn’t have any association with the tournament with its enormous prize fund or anything tomdo with its sponsors. The bottom line for not coming out is clear. There is too much money at stake, too much to lose. So the closet door stays firmly shut.

This is the one scenario in golf where it is much better to be a woman than a man. There is more acceptance, more freedom to be oneself, more liberation. And that’s something for the men to think about.

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Black History Month: Tiger documentary

I’ve now had a chance to watch the Tiger documentary a second time. It needed a second viewing because on the first take it was a lot of impressions about how it was all put together. The second time I appreciated the content a lot more.

Subtitled The Rise, The Fall, The Return, it didn’t really live up to that billing because it was so top heavy with the first two parts of the story. But optimistically, the story is still being written.

The Return part should ideally have been a separate part three as there was not enough dramatic pause between Tiger’s 2017 arrest and moving on to the Masters win under two years later. To me, that is the most dramatic part of the story, the miracle of the turnaround and it should have been treated in much more depth than a cursory 15 minutes at the end. No mention of the incredibly significant win at the Tour Championship. But maybe there will be a revised ending in the future.

It seemed that it wasnt a golf film as such, more for a wider audience who wanted the shock of the fall from grace to be the crescendo. The fact that Tiger magnificently turned his life round and came back wasn’t given enough emphasis.

But golfers watching the shameful shaming of Tiger speech by former Masters Chairman Hootie Johnson know that the 2019 Masters win was revenge on that. Johnson shouldnt have spoken like that, it wasn’t his business, it was Tiger’s family’s business, not his. You wonder if Hootie Johnson was Masters Chairman right now whether he would slam the current Masters champion Dustin Johnson for his transgressions and failed drugs tests that also led him into rehab or former Masters Champion Patrick Reed, just to jump on that most unfair bandwaggon. Would he have criticised Arnold Palmer, who really wasn’t a saint either? I think not. And that underscored the sickening racial observations of the film.

I did feel there was way too much emphasis on the salacious. It became the Rachel Uchitel show at one point. But to see the separate films of both Elin and her being catcalled by paparazi reporters in such nasty terms was an eyeopener to how they were treated. I also thought there was a bit too much emphasis on Earl Woods – I would have been just as interested to hear about Tida Woods, We only hear that she wasn’t Mickelson’s number one fan and she called him hefty (she also called him Plastic Phil in the early 2000s so no love lost there).

It seems that the film maker brought forward so many “exes” and let them have their say. Ex caddie Steve Williams seemed quite upbeat recounting his past with Tiger on film (different from the bitterness in his own book when he says “it was as though I was his slave”). He seems to be over it. Bring forward Tiger’s teenage girlfriend was fairly interesting for the home movies of Tiger acting normally goofing around. There was the ex wife of and the neice of Mark O’Meara, Tiger’s great friend on tour, the neice is now an ex friend. The ex teacher who covered up Earl Woods’ liaisons with other women while Tiger practiced and all the women, so many of them, had screen time, who were now all exes, “compartmentalised” as Tiger would think, out of his life.

Two things really interested me in this story. Firstly that the sexual addiction and multiple affairs may have been a form of physical pain relief. It’s clear from Tiger’s 2017 arrest that he was yet another statistic in America’s shameful opiod addiction crisis. He was clearly addicted to pain relief medication. I would have liked to have heard in a proper part three from the doctors who performed the successful spinal fusion surgery, a bit more about this and his physical rehabilitation.

The other fascinating insight was Tiger’s regular forrays to extreme train with the US Navy Seals. What he put himself through psychologically and physically doing this training and how it may have caused multiple injuries. Fascinating that he ran away to join the navy.

Many of us who play golf for a long time have back injuries. I have a damaged L5 disc which on and off causes a lot of pain. But for Tiger who has rotated his body in the swing for nearly 43 years, the pressure must have been tremendous.

So, engrossing in parts, tedious in others, flawed and yet interesting, it’s worth watching, but hopefully the story of the return isn’t done yet.

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Handicaps for independent golfers

It had seemed that last year the idea of the national golf bodies offering handicaps to golfers who aren’t attached to a club had been abandoned. But with the introduction of the World Handicap System last year changing the game, England Golf announced last month that handicaps will be offered to independent golfers later this year. Scotland, Ireland and Wales will also follow suit.

There are nearly 2 million independent golfers in England and England Golf Chief Executive Jeremy Tomlinson says “we must reach out to these golfers. We must look after all amateur golfers”.

A working group of 6 female and 4 male regional representatives are meeting virtually on a weekly basis to develop the concept which they call an “Independent Golf Connectivity Platform”. Independent golfers will pay a fee for the handicap as well as green fees ro play. But it does seem the uktimate aim is to encourage these players to take up club membership.

It’s encouraging to see this new flexibility from the governing bodies capitalising on the big upsurge in interest in golf in the UK following the ending of the first national lockdown last May.

Mr Tomlinson stressed that clubs would choose individually how they interacted with independent golfers but it seems unlikely they will be allowed to play in club, regional and national competitions just yet. There may be a separate category of competition for them in the future.

Club membership in golf is unlikely to be eroded by this new recognition of nomadic golfer, indeed it is an opportunity to reach out and connect and make the game more inclusive. Because of the capital assets of golf course and club house needing to be funded, club membership will always be the preferred model in the sport and affiliated members who pay fees to the national bodies will have priority.

One of the main arguments against the concept of independent handicaps was that it would lead to a decline in club membership. One of the ideas being discussed is to have a time lapse between leaving a club and being able to seek an independent handicap.

It’s going to be so interesting to see how this pans out in practice. There could be a lot of variation in how clubs treat independent golfers with good experiences and not so good. But it is a real breakthrough to see some outreach, inclusivity and a proper spirit of growing the game.

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Dustin and Jason take on Matthew Wolff’s swing

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Viktor Hovland’s huge advantage

Listen to this…the Norweigan TV commentators when Viktor Hovland won his second victory, the Mayakoba Classic last year.

Imagine them in the gallery when he plays himself onto the European Ryder Cup team. They are loud! The monotonous chants of U-S-A U-S-A will be drowned out.

We in England remember the Norweigan TV announcers well, and those in the clip below probably trained Hovland’s TV supporters today. We remember the bonkers TV commentary whrn Norway beat England 2-1 to knock us out of the World Cup. The commentator threw everything at us “Can you hear me Maggie Thatcher, Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana… your guys took a hell of a beating!”

Viktor doesn’t seem to mind them, he loves metal music as loud as you can play it and explains that he likes the bleeeuggh, sound that’s often in the middle of songs. If that’s the sound he makes when he hits a bad shot or misses a putt he’s not going to be fined for swearing. Golfers do need a new sound vocabulary instead of using the same old swear words which get them into trouble when caught on TV. Altogether now bleeeeugggh! And perhaps some might take a leaf out of his book and smile -all the time.

Extraordinary swing with a head bobbing similar to Lee Trevino. He’s coming off a good run of form with 17 rounds in the 60s and a tied 6th in Saudi Arabia, but with a laugh said that he had eight bogeys in a row the first time he played this week’s tournament course Riviera.

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Bryson practising at Riviera -swing positions!

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The new Top 50

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