Tiger's all-time low
Ewen Murray explains how Tiger Woods' behaviour all weekend in Dubai left a bitter taste in the mouth...
Last Updated: 15/02/11 12:37pm
So the Gulf Swing is over for another year and it can reflect on a wonderful four weeks of golf on four quality golf courses. My only disappointment was that during the weeks of Bahrain and Qatar, there was a lack of atmosphere.
Golf is young in these quarters and the game will continue to grow. As more and more people take up the game and have an interest in it that will change in the years ahead.
The month produced top-drawer winners in Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey, Thomas Bjorn and after an amazing final round at the Majilis course in Dubai, Alvaro Quiros, more on the delightful Spaniard later.
The focus in Dubai was the rehabilitation of the former number one, Tiger Woods. Disaster is a strong word and I don't think it should be overused, but it often is.
The first day produced a wonderful finish with Tiger at odds with his game. A last-hole eagle reminded us of his brilliance as he turned a possible 76 into a very creditable 71.
The world's top three had been drawn together for the first time on the European Tour. They teed off at 8am on Friday and I wanted to see that because I may never get the chance again. I also wanted to see it as a fan, so rather than my car take me to the media centre, I had it take me to the gates where the fans entered the course.
I left the hotel at 6.30am and at the gates, I saw many mums and dads holding their children's hands. For the youngsters, it was like Christmas morning. They were going to see their idol in the flesh. Many had dressed in their golfing clothes with the "swoosh", just like Tiger, emblazoned across their shirts.
I'm not ashamed to admit it, but their excitement reminded me of when my father used to lift me over the turnstiles at Gayfield Park in Arbroath to see my team take on a Forfar or a Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Second Division. I was as excited as they were, and five hours later, they were not disappointed.
Tiger had shot 66 with three birdies on each nine and was in a whisker of the lead. I only watched for five holes before on-air time beckoned and the rest I watched with you on Sky Sports.
At the second hole, Tiger's 11th, a poor tee shot was greeted with the release of expectorant from his lips and I thought and said at the time it was undesirable. Thankfully the wind from the Arabian Sea felled the gob wide of the camera and the cameraman. That was nothing to what happened as the week grew older.
At lunchtime, I went to the range as I was more than a little flummoxed by the new swing Tiger has had since his alliance with Canadian coach, Sean Foley. I simply wanted to understand it better than I was.
Some 36 yards away, the same children were watching Tiger's every move. In their hands they had a cap, or a programme or just autograph books they wanted him to sign. They stood there waiting patiently watching Woods, Kaymer and Westwood practice.
They could not even see Tiger as his agent, Mark Steinburg who is never far from Wood's shadow, stood behind him with the golf bag obscuring everyone's view. Lee left first and signed every one of the articles. Kaymer left next and did the same handing out the odd golf ball to the beaming recipients... then horror!
Flanked by six security guards who made the Kray Twins look like Morecambe and Wise, Woods slipped off his golf glove, and a shiny black car appeared. In stepped the agent and Tiger and off they went into the desert. I looked at the kids' faces and remembered the odd disappointment I had as a child and my heart melted.
There were faces that displayed they had been betrayed, there were tears and there were angry looks from the mums and dads who had their children up at the crack of dawn promising them that this day was going to be a special one.
There was of course more to come. In the final round at the 12th green, Woods stooped to an all-time low. Quite simply it was the most degrading moment I have experienced in the game. Having left a 25-foot putt four feet short of the hole, as he bent down to mark it, another spurt of phlegm was released which landed a few feet away on the putting surface.
There were four groups behind him and the deposit could clearly be seen on the green. Quiros, playing two groups behind him would be unaware that his second putt was just inches from the splat.
I could go on, but what's the point? The one thing I would say on my own behalf here is that I'm privileged to comment on the best tournaments in the world and I felt at the time I should not have to have made the comments I made on air, but if I didn't, then I would not be worthy of being in the position I'm in.
Had I ignored it, I would be as guilty as the perpetrator. My sadness is that Woods has given me, like you, so much enjoyment and thrills down the years, but his actions in Dubai were totally unacceptable to everyone - including the game of golf itself.
I thought of the embarrassing press conference in Ponte Vedra, a year ago this Saturday, at the headquarters of the PGA Tour when Woods did not have the courage to face the world, just a few family members and his mum were present. "Humility" and "better person" were mentioned on more than one occasion. What ever happened to that promise? For the record, his press conferences in Dubai could only be described as dire.
Woods has a long way to go before his game is anywhere near where it was and whatever criticisms can be made of other areas of his life, his work ethic remains an example and inspiration to all.
But on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates, a country that has paid handsome dividends for his services, he stooped to depths that simply should never be reached. He was paid a reported three million dollars for his performance last week. Surely he has to do better than he did?
What a comparison to Phil Mickelson. Phil has had, I would imagine, a torrid time in the past two seasons through no fault of his own. The illness of his charming wife Amy and his mum have had must have been hard to deal with. Yet Mickelson went to Shanghai and during his four days there spent an hour every day in the sponsor's hospitality suite and another hour signing autographs. He even learned to write his name in Chinese.
By the end of the week, the fans no longer wanted his signature; they just wanted to walk alongside him. He smiled his way down the fairways and like the Pied Piper, the fans followed with smiles as wide as China. Phil is the people's hero, he has humility, he has decency and he has manners, just like the greats of the game have had down the years.
We will have to wait and see what happens now, but Wood's behavior in Dubai might well have done irreparable damage to the one time golden boy of our sport.
On a brighter note, the win of Alvaro was thrilling. His fifth victory on tour was nerve-jangling and his final round included an eagle two and an eagle one and a triple bogey! Alvaro is a special talent and because of the way he plays, there will be highs as well as lows, rather like Arnold Palmer during his career. He has the natural ability to go to the very top of the sport and I would not be surprised if he manages to do that.
His next event is the first world golf championship of the season and no one will relish facing him in the Accenture Match Play. The Middle East Swing is now firmly cemented in the world golfing calendar and the place to play golf in January and February is where the East meets West.
By the way, as I have mentioned them, Arbroath can't stop scoring goals at the moment and they are top of the Scottish third division. Happy days!
Do you agree with Ewen? Is a fine enough for the former world number one? Let him know by filling in the feedback form below...