Tiger has turned me back into a fan – and I love him for it
I have a friend who supports Leeds United.
I have spent the last 23 years as an interested observer as to what this means.
When we were 22 we were living in Australia as O’Leary’s babes were rampaging through Europe, so we stayed up until 7am to watch them play Roma in a Sydney casino.
I saw the pain the collapse of Ridsdale’s dream caused the club. I looked on baffled as the club’s humiliating descent via administration into the third tier of English football made no difference to the levels of devotion.
I saw first-hand the indignity of the Cellino years and I get caught up now in the agony of false dawn upon false dawn as another promotion push falters and mid-table mediocrity becomes an inevitability for another year.
I watch my friend be affected by Leeds’ results. If they win he is upbeat; if they lose he is down in the dumps.
I accept that any time in his company will be built around what Leeds are doing, that days will be planned around their televised matches and that his nose will be in his phone if Leeds are playing while we are together.
I do all this with the irreverence of the bystander. I ‘support’ Manchester United, and I ‘support’ Grimsby Town.
By which I mean, I look for their results, I watch their matches hoping they will win, and I feel comfortable because I have an answer to the question ‘who do you support’.
Their successes and failures have no actual effect on my life and I can’t recall ever planning my days around their kick-off times. Following golf has always followed much the same pragmatic rhythm for me.
I have players I like, sure, such as Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, and players I don’t like, but I am not really bothered who wins the Valspar, or a WGC or even a major.
I am just interested in the spectacle. I am comfortable that I am interested in the sport for the sake of the sport, and not because I have any kind of tribal interest.
Last weekend though I was outed once again as a Tiger Woods fan.
I didn’t miss a shot. An old friend and his family were visiting, I have two children to tend to and a wife to support but really, secretly, my priority was watching Tiger.
What time is he playing? What is the time difference again? What time does the coverage start? How much of Tiger will we see?
I refreshed the leaderboard on the PGA Tour app again and again. I made sure all the TVs in the house had the golf on all the time.
When we went to the pub, I made them put the golf on and watched over my friend’s shoulder.
I winced when he flayed one right, grimaced when he pulled one left, purred at this iron play, gawped at his ball speed.
I came to resent the stupid, unforgiving, strategy-free Bear Trap. I was been out of my seat every time he sent a putt towards the hole.
I behaved like a fan.
One way or the other, I saw every shot of his Friday, Saturday and Sunday rounds and his play, his presence and his undefeatable spirit made my weekend.
I love his trousers that don’t fit, I love his inability to back off, I love that he tried to birdie the last four holes because he is only interested in winning. I love that he didn’t.
I love that his ego means he lashes at his driver to keep up with the kids. I love that he won’t let his age and his back compromise his desire to be the main man. I love that he is still wearing red on Sunday, and I love that he is flawed.
I love that he is a middle-aged man, who is defying his age, his body and the humiliation he has suffered. I love that he has baggage to carry around and that he won’t let that beat him.
I love that his career has happened as I have aged along with him.
I love that he is undoubtedly back.
I love that my three-year-old can now recognise him.
I love him like my friend loves Leeds United – despite everything.