Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

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. …

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