A car crash is a terrible thing, but hordes of people still slow down to cop an eyeful on the motorway. Car-crash sport is equally compelling. In the US Open, up at Chambers Bay, Tiger Woods opened with two of the worst rounds he had ever played: 80, with eight bogeys and one triple bogey, and 76 before heading home. But no matter how dismal his performance, he had a huge number of spectators shouting in support. Fellow players refuse to write him off, former golfers are less amiable. One-time Open champion Tom Weiskopf said Woods ‘had gone from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of a coal mine’. Greg Norman said he ‘looks lost’ on a golf course.
This is a 14-time Major winner made to look like a club hacker by… By what? By a chaotic private life? Perhaps: he has just split up with Lindsey Vonn, amid allegations of his philandering again. By injury? Certainly. He is in a terrible mess, his back and knees wrecked. When Woods was emerging, a US golf writer told me that his swing was going to give him problems because the torque he used to twist his body would cause damage. Now Woods is endlessly tinkering with his swing and his short game has fallen apart.
However, he still talks the language of someone fighting to keep in with a chance. ‘It was a tough day. I got off to a bad start. I just couldn’t quite get it turned around. I just can’t get the consistency that I would like to have out there.’ When such a great man, albeit hard to like, is fallen so low, it is a sight to behold. But there is a touch of Lear, too: as things accelerated from bad to much worse, he brought out a self-deprecating joke.
After the first round, Woods was tied in 152nd place, above the world No. 9, Rickie Fowler. ‘The bright side is at least I kicked Rickie’s butt today,’ said Woods. Bless you, but maybe take a few months out. He is nearly 40, rarely healthy and over the hill. He may win a tournament, but it won’t be a major.
There’s a slightly half-baked county Twenty20 tournament being played at seemingly random intervals. It’s called the NatWest T20 Blast and includes teams such as the Birmingham Bears and the Yorkshire Vikings. Well done, chaps, but Twenty20 cricket is stadium cricket: anything called the County Ground makes it a game played between tea and the start of prep. What a pity that wonderful encounter with the Kiwis had to end: every match was a classic, with a quite extraordinarily fearless performance by both sides. So when captain Eoin Morgan holes out for a first-ball duck trying to whack the ball into the next county during a nail-biting run chase in the final one-dayer, it’s not time to kick the guy. More to celebrate the players who followed him having the right to go for broke. Marvellous stuff.
Why do we have to spoil this super summer by playing the Australians? Can’t we tell them we’re ill? An identical press conference with the Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was interpreted two ways: the Times headline was: ‘Clarke’s pledge over behaviour: Ashes will be played in right spirit, says Australia captain.’ But the Telegraph had this: ‘Sledgers are back — my Australia side will unsettle England with more aggression, vows Clarke.’ We will see.
Good to see José Mourinho at Queen’s. What kind of tennis do you think he most enjoys? Grass is probably wrong: better, clay, and slightly wet. Hour after hour of baseline slogging, with nobody going to the net, ever, on pain of being dropped. Huge amounts of psychological warfare, taking in everyone from the umpire to the ball kids and the girl who brings the banana out of the fridge. And who would he want to watch? Presumably, he’s never got over the retirement of Ivan Lendl. Oh José, we’re missing you already.
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