Tiger Woods has still got it. It was never in doubt, really. He can still play, he can still carry himself with that old swagger, and he can still draw the crowds.
Love it or hate it, Australians place so much emphasis on sporting prowess that just about any off-field indiscretion can be forgiven – if you keep winning.
Tiger is benefitting from this, and we saw that over the weekend.
Take the 2nd hole on Sunday, for example. After spraying them all over in the 3rd round, he was 5 shots off the pace.
Yet, with a huge crowd, the sun shining, and some of the old arrogance back, he didn’t opt to use the iron off the tee like the previous day. He knew he had to pick up shots, so he pulled out the driver and ripped that little white ball down the middle like it was 2001.
He may not have birdied the hole, but he gave everyone there something to remember.
He is still worth the asking price for Golf Australia. The Sunday crowd at the Lakes nearly doubled to 67,000, and those that run the game here know that was largely due to Woods.
The crowds around him were 6 deep at all times.
The Network Ten telecast was the Tiger show, in the strongest field the Open has boasted in years.
That’s the effect the world number 58 still has.
Of course, Ten and everyone else had their eye on Tiger because he strung three excellent rounds together, and would have won had he not shot a 3 over 75 on Saturday. Ok, maybe he’ll never find that extra 10 percent that made him almost unbeatable a decade ago, but he’s on his way back into some form.
It’s excellent for Woods, and it’s excellent for golf.
There are those who would see our collective readiness to forgive as a bad thing. That we shouldn’t allow someone who has made such a mess of their private life enjoy the spotlight.
It happens all the time – sports star messes up, weathers the bad press, promises to change, gets selected on their proven ability, and walks out and takes wickets, kicks goals, wins tournaments.
I understand the negative impact of any star’s actions away from their chosen sport. People look up to them. Ok, they’re not great role models, but then why should they be?
They don’t owe it to us to be good.
We didn’t make them stars. Sure, we write about them, follow them on Twitter, give them the airtime – but they did the hard work, and they were blessed with the talent.
If anything we hope they will keep getting themselves in trouble – it’s great entertainment. Take John Daly, for example.
Golf Australia were livid when the ‘Wild Thing’ packed up and went home after hitting 7 straight into the drink on the 11th hole of the tournament.
At least, that’s what they’re saying. The truth is, Long John got them more column inches by storming off than he ever would have languishing down in the lower half of the field with a pair of bright pants on.
Thats why we need Tiger, and Daly, and whoever else provides a sideshow in any sport. They might be grubs, but like it or not, the people still love them.
And so do I.