The Last Word: Tiger at bay is a danger to himself
The former world No 1 has asked his notorious bagman to caddie on his comeback. Big mistake
What would you prefer to watch from the comfort of your armchair? A fiery red globe melting into the sea with all the certainty of a sunset? Or a thunderstorm rippingup trees and flattening fences asit goes?
Or maybe you would like to view both, one following the other, nature's beauty and then her beast. Well, for weather nerds read golf fans. For them the unravelling of the Tiger Woods legend is just as enthralling as the ravelling. Perhaps even more so. As one American commentator wryly observed, "the greatest" has become the "great unknown". And who doesn't prefer a plot in which the conclusion is cloaked in drama, controversy and intrigue? Not to mention an unhealthy measure of schadenfreude?
The enduring lure of the tale will be proven over the next two weeks as the player whose moniker has become "the former world No 1" returns from an 11-week absence, first at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and then at the season's final major, the USPGA Championship in Atlanta. The TV figures will go through the ceiling, which says so much as Woods will now be "the current world No 28". The freak has become a freak show.
Some critics think sports pages make too much of this icon's downfall. Fair enough. They prob-ably didn't think Nixon was very interesting either. What makes it so gripping is the seemingly inexorable self-destruction at work. Not just in the plastic-inspired forms of those 15 mistresses (number correct at time of going to press), but in the effort to rebuild his career. It should all have been about consigning the past to the past, yet the past continues to define Woods's present. And for that he must largely blame himself and his ever-shrinking "team".
He won't, of course. When he speaks at Firestone he will have questions to answer – or evade – regarding the man on his bag. Woods sacked Steve Williams this month after the New Zealander dared to help out Adam Scott (if there's one thing Tiger loathes, it's unfaithfulness). Yesterday it was confirmed that Bryon Bell is the new caddie, if only temporarily.
And there you have it. Yet anotherpiece of mismanagement from the Woods camp. It is right up there with his promise no longer to curse on the course and with his vow to interact with the galleries. Pointless, unachievable, detrimental. This isn't fire-fighting, it's fire-forming.
If you didn't know, Bell is not only Tiger's friend and the president of his course-design company (at the moment, a role rivalling Genghis Khan's poet laureate for activity) but the man accused by at least three of Woods's mistresses as being "the travel agent" . Rachel Uchitel – dare we call her the Deep Throat in this particular "gate"? – pointed the finger at Bell as facilitator. As did a cocktail waitress by the name of Jamie Jungers and a porn star called Joslyn James.
Bell has never spoken on the matter.But now he will be out there, drawing sniggers on the range, and he will undoubtedly find the silence rather more difficult to maintain. Whateverhe says, however he says "no comment", it won't really matter. A tired old yarn will be given new life, the events of Thanksgiving Day 2009 will be recounted. Why? Because of the insatiable desire for scandal, no doubt. But more so because Tiger has chosen Bell as his caddie. And the question again can only be: why?
Is it a middle finger to the world? Maybe Woods has decided "no more Mr Nice Guy, let's resurrect the mean and nasty Tiger". But with his income reportedly affected by unimpressed sponsors and with a winless run of 21 months, that must be doubted. He needs as many friends as he can get. He should not have put his most notorious friend on the bag.
It makes no sense and it will only add to the speculation of how far Woods has withdrawn into a quite wretched shell. Who does he have left in his corner? Granted, Bell has caddied for him three times before, most notably in victory at the Buick Invitational in 1999. Except Woods was so good then he could have had Ms Uchitel reading the yardages. Now he is lower than ever and desperate for all the expertise he can muster.
Bell's appointment is unprofes-sional and inadvisable and so typicallynew Tiger. It makes inevitablethe resummoning of the ghosts, jamming him ever deeper into his inescapable purgatory.
BBC were right to cut F1 TV in half
The BBC were instructed to lop off 20 per cent of their budget and it was inevitable that sport would have to take its turn under the axe. So why all the bleating when it was announced that their Formula One coverage would be chopped in half?
Every other sports fan has suffered, so why not those of F1? Football, rugby union and league, cricket, golf, tennis – you name it, the digital channels have most of it. But the difference between those sports and F1 is that they actually encourage children to get off the sofa and venture in that thing called "the outdoors", for some healthy participation. What does F1 encourage them to do? Drive fast. How wonderful.
So while it is unpalatable to see Sky annexing yet more of the sporting calendar, the fact is the F1 enthusiast will still get to see the BBC's Jake Humphrey fronting 10 of 20 races, which will make them the wild envy of every other sports nut. Get over it. Or get Sky. Simple.
The truly baffling aspect of the BBC's decision was their obsessive protecting of the entire rights to Wimbledon. They could slash 50 per cent off and make the tournament more exciting. Only the anoraks care about mixed doubles and junior games. And it is not imperative to show every singles match.
It is overkill and, in newspaper parlance, it needs a damn good edit. Indeed, exactly as the BBC have done with F1.
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