Destruction of Woods myth overshadows Watson agony

Oh for 2009 to be remembered for that 59-year-old who came within one normal bounce of winning the Open; for that Korean who became the first Asian male to win a major; for that Scottish Supermum who won the Women's Open just 10 weeks after giving birth. But no, Tiger Woods drove into a fire hydrant and the sordid revelations began to pour forth. And so the Year of the Heroes became the Year of the Rat.

In truth, Woods' decision – in the midst of his extra-marital strife – to take an "indefinite break" from competitive golf would have monopolised the headlines whatever the sporting narrative. The world No 1 voluntarily walking away from the pursuit which had previously defined him was as unprecedented as it was unexpected. Granted, golf had to cope without him in 2008 for eight months as he recovered from knee reconstruction. But one has to be thicker than a whale's lip not to recognise the difference this time.

Woods' profession will nervously await his third coming and will do so in some uncertainty. Tiger the spotless human will never be the same again, but will Tiger the impervious competitor? Together with the inevitable financial implications, of course, these are the questions obsessing the fairways.

Yet wind the clock back a few weeks – and a dozen or so mistresses – and there were already queries over the Woods aura, despite his seven tournament wins. Do not forget that he suffered what many consider to be the first missed cut in a major as a pro (the previous time came six weeks after his father died and he was in no fit shape to compete) at Turnberry in July. Indeed, the events of that week continue to flabbergast even now.

Did Tom Watson, a man just nine months short of his 60th birthday and nine months removed from a hip replacement, really come so close to becoming the oldest winner of a major by more than 10 years? With that eight-iron approach in the air, making its perfectly struck progress to the 18th green, it seemed nothing could or would stop sport's most remarkable victory from unfolding.

But then it bounced like a basketball hitting a trampoline and then it ended up over the green and then, for the first time, Watson resembled an old man.

Stewart Cink was waiting in the play-off as the archetypal party- pooper and the game proceeded to weep for what could have been. It was an anti-climax which Catriona Matthew tried to erase at Lytham and Y E Yang attempted to eradicate at the USPGA. However, only one story was capable of overshadowing Watson's agony. The destruction of the Tiger myth. A sin for the ages.

Three to watch

www.tigerwoods.com The world No 1 will announce his return/retirement on his website. The world is already waiting.

Rory McIlroy Can the boy wonder fill the void? If the putter obliges, a major is not too fanciful a notion.

Michelle Wie The last 12 months have seen the girl become a woman. The next year will see her become a major champion.

James Corrigan

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