Tiger's talents come unstuck in Leicester Square's virtual world
World No 1 took time out to launch new computer game yesterday. Mike Rowbottom was there
Tuesday 26 September 2006
Passers-by in Leicester Square yesterday were offered the intriguing opportunity of becoming impromptu extras in Channel 4's T4 television show to be screened on Saturday featuring a well-known golfer.
Tiger Woods - for it was he - may have performed with extreme gallantry in the weekend's heavy US defeat in the Ryder Cup at the K Club, but one more trial lay ahead of him before he could return to America - a jaunty afternoon in the company of Vernon Kay, Ian Wright and Jodie Kidd in an event set up to promote the latest version of his computer golf game.
But the world's leading golfer, casually dressed in a mauve shirt studiously not tucked into jeans, which bore a small hole in the right knee subjected himself to an extra appearance punctuated by much joshing - "you've played this game before, haven't you?" - and frequent interruptions as the on-trend prog segued to exclusive clips of Badly Drawn Boy's latest offering and the next instalment of Boy Bands.
Kay, affable and leggy as ever, had a big question to ask Tiger: how did he manage to focus on his game so completely?
"Why can't you be focused for four or five hours?" Woods responded. "You have 19 more hours to recover..."
Fair point. But Kay had another big question to ask: how did the champion kick back? As a fleeting expression of alarm cast across the face known to millions, his interviewer moved swiftly to clarify the matter. How did he relax?
Tiger switched straight into "Answering Questions About How I Relax" mode, his teeth shining like lustrous freshwater pearls. "I like to get away from the game," he said. "I like to go spear-fishing. Anything that has to do with water, I just absolutely love it."
He must have felt in his element in Leicester Square then as the rain squalled down from a leaden sky and dripped in big blotches from the London plane trees surrounding the mini golf course that had been assembled at its centre.
Underneath the averted, statuesque gaze of the Square's founder - Albert Grant Esq MP - Woods bandied words and shots with his lesser celebrities, displaying all the unerring aplomb of his digitally recreated form as it appeared on the big screens surrounding the venue.
Wright, sporting the kind of baggy cap last seen on a Hovis delivery boy, was deemed to be the winner. In a spectacle which involved translating drives taken on the video game into "real life" scenarios on the artificially created mini-greens Woods himself did not appear particularly adept on the slippery artificial surfaces, although that may have had something to do with a wind machine that was turned on to full power at crucial moments. He bore it all with good grace, and duly presented Wright with the Tiger Cup when it was all over.
Before disappearing on the helicopter which had ferried him to his metropolitan appointment, Woods was asked to account for the superiority which Europe have now established over the US in the Ryder Cup.
"It's pretty simple," he said. "They made more putts. Every time it came to the 18th green they won more than we did. This year we were in position to sink those putts but we didn't do it."
The next question called upon Woods to reflect upon the contribution at the weekend from his friend Darren Clarke. "I was proud to have seen it," he said. The genuine feeling seemed out of place.
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