Friday 15 December 2017

Television review: Tiger Woods, a fallen nation turns its lonely eyes to you

* Tiger Woods (Sky Sports)

Tiger Woods walks off the 18th green during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in the Bahamas. Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP
Tiger Woods walks off the 18th green during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in the Bahamas. Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

The story of the fall of the United States of America is probably best illustrated through the fall of Tiger Woods. He came back last week, after a long period out with back injuries, and the tournament he played in was watched on TV by far more people than would even think of watching such a tournament in the usual run of things.

They still love Tiger, or at least they find him irresistibly compelling. And yet they destroyed him.

I do not hold with the idea that Tiger destroyed himself. He may have behaved badly in terms of his marriage, but then he had not established his greatness in the first place in that domain. Nor had he gone out of his way to create a "squeaky clean image", as the cliche-mongers put it, so he wasn't letting us down much in that regard either.

Indeed in an America dominated by the delinquency of the corporate class, Tiger still exemplified a culture of legitimate achievement, he really had to get that ball into that hole, he couldn't employ a PR firm to make it up on his behalf, he really did all that stuff.

In 2008, when it was becoming clear that the heroes of Wall Street had incinerated trillions of other people's money, Tiger managed to win the US Open essentially with a broken leg.

So badly injured was he, almost every shot in the latter stages of the tournament caused him the most ferocious pain, and yet he just kept going somehow, and he won it somehow.

At the time it seemed clear to me that in this most uncertain hour, America now had its authentic hero, that such a display of obvious greatness was the sort of thing they used to concoct in Hollywood during World War II, to inspire the troops. Except again you had to keep reminding yourself that none of this was made up, that Tiger really did win the US Open on one leg.

But they did not see it like that, they could not see it. Instead of taking heart from the fact that there was at least one man among them who could do such astonishing things, and do them for real, they preferred to take pleasure from the failure of his marriage.

Yes they still found him irresistibly compelling, but instead of drawing a little strength from his magnificence, they chose to devour him.

I believe it was the single most powerful indicator that this empire was in terrible trouble, this asinine rejection of what was great in the American character - or worse, the fact that greatness had become invisible to them. And all they could see now, was celebrity twaddle.

They just couldn't tell the difference any more, between a man of incomparable genius such as Tiger, and some tabloid clown. They had become blind to talent, to virtue, and like some perfect biblical revenge, they have been given Trump, himself a golfer, albeit one of whom it was recently said, "when it comes to cheating, Trump is 11 on a scale of one to 10.''

Oh ye baleful gods, how fiendishly ye have arranged this - that a nation which turned its back on honest accomplishment, just to feast on a man's misfortune, should now be handed over to the ultimate flim-flam merchant.

That people who were unable to appreciate the level of personal integrity needed to win 14 Majors, have ended up with a very different kind of golfer, one who is not so bound by the truth of the numbers.

So he came back last week, and they all tuned in again to devour some more of Tiger, and you hoped that some of them at least could see the poignancy of it - "where have you gone Joe di Maggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

But you sensed that a lot of them were just waiting for his back to disintegrate again, somewhere on the closing holes of an unimaginably bad round.

Still he did pretty well, they were getting excited for a while on Sky Sports, for whom this was just a story about golf. In truth it is a story about a lost civilisation.

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