So in the end it was a fallible Tiger that won all hearts at the Open, not the glowering, red-shirted monarch of the fairways who carried all before him long ago. But a softer, puzzled, vaguely frail Tiger is hard not to like: this is someone now who isn’t quite sure what shot to play, who doesn’t quite know where the ball is going. Now we like him, and by golly the sport needs him. Like a fading but reformed rock star, he looks happier too: easier with the media, and carrying an ailing sport with dignity. The money is pretty good too.
Sadly the fact that the sport’s biggest star is ten years past his prime says plenty. If I went out on to the street now and asked 100 people to tell me something about Kevin Kisner or Xander Schauffele, there wouldn’t be any takers. Or can anyone tell me a couple of interesting facts (are there any?) about Zach or Dustin Johnson? Or even tell the difference between them? Any takers? I doubt it, though the fact that Dustin’s the bearded one is a good starting point.
But Tiger? Everybody knows Tiger and now they love the old philanderer even more. Who said there were no second chances? Tiger has transcended his sport more than any other sportsman since Bradman. Ali came close of course, though Smokin’ Joe had his advocates. Of the current crop, only Anthony Joshua comes close to a Tiger or a Don. An old ITV sports producer used something he called the Oxford Street test: was a sports person big enough to be recognised on Oxford Street? Today’s version might be the Graham Norton test. Who would fit easily on the sofa? In golf, Tiger certainly. Possibly Rory, but I can’t think of many others.