Tiger’s tale is one that’s almost impossible to resist
● There is nothing like the Ryder Cup. Not in golf. Not in all of sport. They say imitation is the best form of flattery and if that is true the Ryder Cup can be very proud because so many other sports have tried to copy it.
But they have all failed even to approach the passion and interest produced by this match. Europe does not come together like this in any other context. It is the only competition that pits one side of the Atlantic against the other.
When Jack Nicklaus suggested in the 70s that Great Britain and Ireland team be expanded to take in the continent just so America could be given a proper match, he could not have imagined what it would become.
It transcends the game, it crosses the boundaries. Every footballer will watch, every cricketer, every rugby player. It is the ultimate shop window for golf in the world.
But, this year, there’s one major reason why there’ll be more people tuning into the Ryder Cup — Tiger Woods, following his first PGA tour win in five years.
There were children lining the fairways at East Lake Golf Club who hadn't been born the last time it was like this, men whose beards had grown grey and young adults with only faint memories of what it felt like to watch the greatest sports phenomenon of their lifetime in his prime.
And as Woods crushed his tee shot down the 18th fairway last Sunday, all of them had had enough. Enough of being told to be quiet, enough of being constrained by ropes and golf etiquette. This is the South [the southern states of America], after all, where it’s practically expected to rush onto the field following the biggest wins.
Sea of humanity
Even Woods was caught between smiling as he looked back and staying in the moment as a sea of humanity flooded the fairway behind him. Just like the field behind Woods this week, the security guards had no chance. As thousands of people drew closer, all of them chanting “Tiger! Tiger!” one of Atlanta’s elite golf clubs had suddenly turned into a scene straight out of a soccer game.
But who cares about decorum when Woods had just won his first tournament in five years?
“This was different,” Woods said, acknowledging that the scene on the final hole was unlike anything he experienced in his previous 79 career victories. “I guess it’s different now because the art of clapping is gone. You can’t clap with a cellphone in your hand, so people yell.”
It may be the best description yet for why Woods’ comeback is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and why the emotion following him at every tournament this summer has been so intense.
In sports we are used to eras ending, legends fading and passing the best parts of those memories down to the next generation while lamenting they never got to see that kind of greatness for themselves.
It doesn’t actually matter whether he helps win the Ryder Cup for the US in Paris this week, or does go on to win another major, although he is as short as 8-1 with some bookmakers for next April’s Masters.
This is less about a tournament victory than what Woods won in trying to get back: a sense of who he is and how the world feels about him, a sense of a past that is not necessarily a foreign land.
The Ryder Cup transcends the game, it crosses the boundaries. Every footballer watches, every cricketer, every rugby player. It is the ultimate shop window for golf in the world