The art of emulating our heroes

We duffers must flail away in the hope of getting marginally better at this fabulous, frustrating game

In all honesty, and as daft as it now seems, I didn't think he could do it. I thought that the burden of expectation would weigh too heavily. I also reckoned I had detected a slight fallibility in his putting stroke which might possibly be magnified by those alpine St Andrews greens.

In all honesty, and as daft as it now seems, I didn't think he could do it. I thought that the burden of expectation would weigh too heavily. I also reckoned I had detected a slight fallibility in his putting stroke which might possibly be magnified by those alpine St Andrews greens.

I should have known better. If nothing else, I should have known not to doubt the collected wisdom of Mr Ladbroke, Mr Coral and Mr Hill, not to mention old Statto, who is £10,000 better off this morning after five years ago wagering £100 at 100-1 on Tiger Woods to win the Millennium Open. Me, I invested a tenner each way in the 40-1 prospects of Sergio Garcia, so what do I know? Still, at least I'll recoup my losses after a £25 side-bet with the eminent golf correspondent of Scotland on Sunday that Garcia would finish higher than Nick Faldo, a bet I am committing to print just in case it has slipped his sometimes porous mind.

We struck it on the eve of the Open over a top-notch tandoori at the Balaka restaurant in St Andrews, an establishment also patronised last week by Seve Ballesteros, Tom Kite and Padraig Harrington. The Balaka finished well up the money list in the unofficial championship to find the restaurant frequented by most famous golfers. Top, by a Tiger Woods margin of dominance, was the Road Hole Grill at the Old Course Hotel. Second, as far as I can tell, was the cornily yet cannily named Claret Jug restaurant in the basement of the Dunvegan Hotel, soon to be adorned by a picture of Tiger with his latest trophy.

Meanwhile, if there is anybody or anything that emerges from the 129th Open Championship with as much credit as the champion, it is surely the Old Course itself. After the third round, Woods and David Duval, Nos 1 and 2 in the world, were lying first and second in the Open. That is how it should be. And the failure of defending champion, Paul Lawrie, even to make the cut offered a further reminder, if one were needed, that Carnoustie 1999 was a case of a freak course delivering - with all due respects to a decent but unremarkable player - a freak winner.

Speaking of freakish occurrences, it is time to reflect that this Open did not yield a single hole-in-one on the short eighth hole, yet on 10 May, 1988, watched by my friends Doug, Tony and Dom, I popped it in with a (slightly thinned) seven-iron. Just think, Tiger at his imperious best has just played the eighth at St Andrews four times without seriously threatening a hole-in-one, yet is still surpassed by me, a humble 10-handicapper at the time. I know of only one other golfer - Ben Crenshaw - who has achieved similar glory at the eighth. Which is one reason why we duffers must continue to flail away in the hope of getting marginally better at this fabulous, frustrating game, and not be cowed into submission by Tiger.

For his level of genius is as dispiriting as it is inspiring. His historic victory yesterday will prompt thousands of people to take up golf, or at any rate to dust off their half-set of Lee Trevino Accurists bought in 1975, but many will fall by the wayside, infuriated that they cannot seem to get the ball airborne quite like Tiger does. They should persevere. Because not least among golf's many attractions is the certainty that the most hopeless hacker will, up to 18 times a round, execute a shot that not even Tiger could improve upon. More often than not, this will be a tap-in from four inches. Occasionally, as in my flukey achievement 12 years ago, it will be something more glorious.

I have written before of my friend Davey, possibly the worst golfer in the world, who nevertheless scored an improbable albatross two on the par-five fifth at Castletown GC in the Isle of Man a few years ago. His second shot, aided by a gale-force wind, rose barely 10 feet above the ground and, pursuing a banana-shaped trajectory, clattered the flagstick at about 50mph before disappearing from view. To put this into perspective, when the South African Manny Zerman did likewise on Friday, on the 14th on the Old Course, PeterAlliss remarked that it was only the second albatross he had ever seen, following one by John Jacobs in a matchplay event at Hoylake "many moons ago".

I cannot think of any other sport to which this phenomenon applies, nor one in which you can perform in the same arena as your heroes. Nor one, for that matter, blessed by anyone quite as heroic as young Tiger Woods. I bet he never gets a hole-in-one at St Andrews, though. Not too much, mind.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice