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Seven reasons to celebrate Tiger Woods' absence from the Masters


Tiger Woods missed the Masters earlier this year because of back surgery. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Tiger Woods missed the Masters earlier this year because of back surgery. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Tiger Woods missed the Masters earlier this year because of back surgery. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Churchillian quote will sound unbearably glib, I know, to golf lovers riven by the post-traumatic shock caused by Tiger Woods scratching from the Masters with a bad back.

The temptation to crawl under the duvet with a bottle of Glenlivet and seek oblivion until the agony fades is hard to resist.

Yet in grave adversity there is nothing for it, as Winston used to say, but to keep buggering on.

Of course the prospect of a Woods-less Masters is heart-rending, as the sepulchral media coverage of his withdrawal makes clear.

Even if his major tournament form over the past six years suggests the headline “Man with not a prayer of winning pulls out of US Masters”, you could weep for the loss. Indeed, I weep as I type. Yet, if the doughty souls of the Augusta National committee are willing to proceed without their colossus, let us all be inspired by their courage. And so, drawing on the Dunkirk spirit, I offer seven compelling reasons to thank heaven for Tiger Woods’s absence.

1. The curse on British golfers might lift. In the nine years preceding Woods’s first Augusta victory in 1997, Nick Faldo was thrice helped into one of those monstrously hideous green jackets, and Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam once each. Since Woods’s inaugural Masters win by a modest 12 shots, no Brit has been inveigled to commit what would be regarded, in any sartorial arena other than golf, as fashion suicide. The odds against that being coincidence are astronomical, so expect a revival of the old UK form with the hex removed. Noting the curious fact that all four previous majors not contested by Woods were won by an Irishman, three words suffice. Go McIlroy go!

2. A week today, we will awake free from the compulsion to go online to check on Woods’s first-round progress. No list of things for which life is too short is complete without the familiar process of scrolling down the leaderboard, back up to the top, then down and up for several minutes, before sleepily realising that he is tied 28th on two over par. Those minutes may now be put to more constructive use, such as watching the Friends episode in which Ross destroys a sofa for the 28th time.

3. Peter Alliss will be liberated from the urge to pass comment on the spitting, cussing and angry swishing of an errant driver. I yield to no one in my admiration for the patron saint of the string-back driving glove, but the appetite for censorious Allissian references to Woods’s lack of couth was sated a while ago.

4. That said, the old boy has a point. It will be nice to watch the Masters without being subjected to Woods’s endless gobbing. If I feel the need for that, I can look out of the window. What lends gloss to the streets of Shepherd’s Bush has no business befouling the azalea-lined fairways of Augusta.

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5. There is no possibility of hearing Woods hold forth about his faith. “Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security,” he piously explained in 2010 once his whirlwind tour through cocktail waitress America had come to public notice. “I like Buddhism because it’s a whole way of being and living. It’s based on discipline and respect and personal responsibility.” Ah yes, of course.

6. We will be spared the Sunday evening ritual of Woods, clad in traditional final round red, doing the flatter-to-deceive charge up the leaderboard, before sliding out of contention with the regulation trio of bogeys around the turn.

7. There will be a hiatus in the pointless speculation about Woods’s imminent reincarnation as the Tiger of old. He may yet scrape another major, as his arguable fellow GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) Roger Federer did at Wimbledon in 2012 despite being past his prime. Also like the Fed, however, Wood’s ability to handle pressure, and with it his dominance, went long before his back. His absence will persuade the world’s media that his age, glorious as it was, has passed. Not until he returns from his back surgery will a man with very little chance of winning a major again be the only story in Golfsville. Enjoy the peace while it lasts. It will not last long.

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