"Tiger, my dad, my daughter and me"

Tiger Woods 2019 Masters

A little under 4,000 kilometres separate Augusta, GA, from Kirkwall, the royal burgh that serves as the de facto capital of the Orkney Islands. 

Subtract almost a quarter of a century and it’s there this yarn begins. Indulge me, if you'd be so kind.

It’s the final round of the 1995 Masters and my dad, George, is glued to the TV screen. He always is when The Masters is on. So too is, my mum, Madeline. 

Sport wasn’t a big thing in our house growing up – my three older siblings never really had much interest – but certain events always seemed to put in an appearance year after year. The London Marathon, Wimbledon and, yes, The Masters. 

I’m 12-years-old and football daft. It’s like that for a lot of kids in Scotland. Golf is our national sport but football's our national obsession. 

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Dad wants my attention. He'd like me to watch the golf with him. I’m hesitant. Golf seems like something for old guys. It’s slow, complicated and dominated by unathletic looking guys who dress like my schoolteachers. 

But he's not giving up. 

“Come and see this guy,” he insists. He's pointing to a young amateur golfer, not much older than me and who he says is going to be huge. I’m listening but still somewhat ambivalent. That's until he tells me he’s got a cool name.

It’s my first introduction to Tiger Woods. 

Tiger Woods 1997

The name registers - how many people do you know called Tiger? - and, exactly two years later, when he wins The Masters for the first time, a horn of familiarity goes off in my still football-crazy mind. Then comes the “I Am Tiger Woods” Nike commercial and nothing is ever the same. 

April 1 this year marked the start of my 16th year at bunkered and, at various points in that period, I’ve wondered if I’d be interested in golf, far less making my living from it, had dad not introduced me to Tiger back then. It's pure conjecture but I suspect I wouldn't.

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And so to today. 

Shortly after Woods found the green at the 12th – and with his playing partners Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari failing to – I Facetimed home to speak to my 16-month-old daughter before her bedtime. 

This week has been my first time reporting on The Masters in person and, with Augusta being five hours behind the UK, that leaves a small window each day to talk to my wee pal. 

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As it happened, my mum and dad were round at my house spendingthe afternoon with my wife and daughter. As I tried in vain to get the wee one’s attention, there in the background (helping himself to one of my beers, no less!) was dad. 

Of course, the Masters was on. Like I said, it always is.

Tiger Woods Celebrates 2019 Masters Win

That moment. Call me sentimental but I loved it.

In my first visit to dad’s favourite golf tournament, I was reporting on the guy who he used to leverage my interest in the game. Not just that, I was reporting on him winning. Not just that, I was reporting on him winning on a stage that many assumed he would never again win on. Meanwhile, there's dad, sitting in my front room, drinking my beer, playing with my daughter, his granddaughter. 

Circle of life.

This is just one personal example of what I can only assume are numerous personal examples of why we should not, must not, cannot underestimate both Tiger Woods’ influence and his enduring significance.  

Tiger is transcendent. When he plays, people who don’t usually pay any attention to golf stop what they’re doing and watch. The viewing figures bear that out. 

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You can claim golf doesn’t need him any more but you’ll struggle to build much more than than a superficial, circumstantial case.

Think of it like this: you would have to travel a long, long way to find somebody who hasn’t heard of him. Can the same be said of any of his contemporaries? Rhetorical question. 

Liking him? That's a whole other matter. Full disclosure, I’m undecided on how I feel about ‘Tiger, the man’. But ‘Tiger, the golfer’ is a seminal figure, an icon, a totem, a man of unparalleled effect and unquantifiable reach in his field. 

Bigger than the game itself? The fact you could even argue the point tells you everything you need to know.

Tiger Woods Masters Champion

That’s why we should enjoy seeing him back in his natural habitat. He has given us more days like today than he will yet give us. No doubt about that. 

Just two years ago, everybody assumed he was finished. Hell, the thought even crossed his mind. But he’s not. 

Not yet, at least. 

At 43-years-old, and despite what happened today, he remains deep into the back nine of his career. He can overcome scandal. He can withstand being cut open and fused and patched back up. But he can't beat Father Time.

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One day, he’ll win for the last time and we won't know it. Perhaps today was that day. Perhaps that embrace with his kids at the side of the 18th green joined a circle that started when he hugged his own dad in the same spot 22 years and one day prior. Who can know.

I guess it all boils down to appreciating greatness, a gift given to few for the benefit of many. For the last quarter of a century, we’ve been blessed to enjoy and revel in the shadows cast by Tiger’s talent. It has created untold opportunities, both for the sport and for those who watch it. 

People like my dad, my daughter and me. 

When he finally takes his leave, he’ll leave golf better than he found it but, equally, worse off without him. Sunday would suggest that's not especially imminent but it’s coming, nonetheless. Until then, let's enjoy his talent, if not him, whilst we are so privileged.

Moves the needle? Nope. He is he needle.

Now. About that beer...

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