I have often spoken with members of the golfing public about the amazing skills we see when Tiger Woods is playing his best golf. It's occasionally just small talk in the golf shop, but has also taken the form of swing analysis, historical signifigance or discussion about incredible shotmaking.
For those of us who thrive when the industry of golf is healthy, we certainly do owe a debt of gratitude to the "Tiger Effect". Even prior to the start of his now 13-year career on the PGA Tour, there was a buzz surrounding this talented, African American kid who would eventually take the world of golf on his back and lead the industry into the new millenium.
A few decades ago, there was another phenomenal talent plying his trade across North America. It was none other than Wayne Gretzky. In fact, the Great One elevated the profile of hockey around the globe. At the time, my personal immaturity resulted in a glaringly inexplicable lack of respect for what was happening right in front of my eyes. I did not fully appreciate the excellence I had the opportunity to observe. Among our motley crew of negative thinkers back then were frequent catcalls of "whiner Wayne", along with our incessant hope that we would see failure of some sort associated with #99. Well, it never happened and I sincerely regret today that I did not fully embrace at the time what Gretzky contributed to sports in general. I will not make the same mistake with Tiger Woods.
With respect to Bret "the Hitman" Hart of WWE fame, Tiger is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. His ability to perform under extreme pressure is second to none these days. He has achieved success on and off the golf course in the face of racial scrutiny, a deep pool of elite players, and of course, personal tragedy.
At 33 years of age, it is conceivable that his best golf may be ahead of him. Sure, family commitments and personal health might alter his pursuit of greatness, but he may even become a better player in part due to the comfort and security that comes with stability on the home front. Indeed, life balance can be a beautiful thing.
However, what has to stop is the frequent display of temper and foul language that comes with imperfect performance. These antics have been on display this week at the British Open and it is disgusting. Even Tiger is not immune to a bad day on the golf course. Although control of the golf ball can be elusive, control of one's temper is eminently controllable.
Television commentators and journalists are careful to take him to task regarding this unnecessary and embarrasing behaviour, lest they irritate Tiger and his entourage. The kid cuts a wide swath these days and none of these folks seem interested in a comment that might affect their credentials or access. However, their cumulative decision to ignore the bad behaviour, even frame it as some sort of personally motivating factor for Tiger, does a gross injustice to those of us who see the antics for what they are.
Tiger Woods is a phenom, an amazing player who has contributed to making the game both watchable and wildly popular. I will continue to watch in amazement and admire the skills. The golfing public can learn so much by watching a focused, composed and efficient Tiger Woods.
On the other hand, I suppose for now I'm a fan of the game who is just a little disappointed.