Meditaciones OpinionGlobal, 12.03.2015 Cristián Maquieira A., ex embajador chileno
This is the season to be glued to the TV, watching the Augusta Masters golf tournament. I sit there four hours a day looking at these giants of the links do extraordinary feats with their golf clubs. Remarkable distances from the tee box, long,majestic iron shots from the fairways, laser precise chips and pitches to the flag, followed by putts heading for the cup as if drawn by magnets inoutrageous greens that are fast and sleek like bath tubs.
Although hypnotized by the remarkable game of the leader of the tournament, the 21-year-old youngster, Jason Speith,who is full of talent, poise and elegance of play, I am cheering for Tiger Woods.
His face is lined; the seductive,winning smile has been replaced by frowns and grimaces that confirm the tension in his eyes. He takes his cap off and you can see his hairline receding. The poet’s T.S. Elliot’sverse that Time past and time present are both perhaps present in time future may apply to life but not to sportsmen. You can almost feel hisdreadevery time Tiger misses a putt that the once rock-hard talent may have been reduced to faint echoes and a distant memory.
From time to time he opens his souvenirs box and flickers of past genius appear. Then the old glow, that shone when he played like no other man had or could, clutches you for a moment, when hope springs eternal but no, it is not to be. He fails the next shot and you feel disappointed but, unfortunately, not surprised. Don’t get me wrong. Tiger is not washed up or finished. He still is an extraordinary professional golf player but is no longer the giant of the game that casts a long shadow over everybody else. He is just human now.
Hèlas, we may never again see shots like the one at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach where, from 170 yards in the rough, with a tree in front of him and an elevated green where the flag was not visible, Tiger landed the ball five feet from the hole. Or the oneon the 18th hole at the 2001 WGC NEC Invitational,from 200 yards away, in the near darkness, with the ball in the rough, that settled two feet away from the cupto win the championship.
That would have been an incredible shot in broad daylight. The one I remember best is the 18th hole of the Bell Canadian Open of 2000.
The ball was in sand trap, 215 yards from a small green protected by a lake. Tiger used a five iron and the ball came within 25 feet from the cup, putting for an eagle.He made birdie and again won the championship.
What makes professional golfers exceptional is their capacity for extraordinary shots. The thing is Tiger could once repeat all outstanding shots of most if not every other player but none are able to hit those described above and many others that over the years have awed us.
Woods has come to Augusta like a aging prize fighter thinking he still has one tittle shot left in him. That is why he reminds me so much of Mohammed Ali. Both of them were the foremost sportsmen of their generations with incredible accomplishments andexploitsthat nobody believed were achievable, butthey could not accept their talents had dwindled.Late in his 30’s, Ali kept going on, convincing everybody he still had it, even as the defeats, some embarrassing, piled up.
Woods has been obsessed with his swing, changing it constantly during his career as a way of not willing to acceptthat his body, over which he had total certainty, as rarely seen in a sportsman, no longer responds to his commands.Long gone are the days when in 2008 he won the US Open with a broken leg, (two stress fractures on the left tibia), defeating Rocco Mediate (who then became a crossword clue) in an 18-hole playoff.
After months of absence and playing so badly that he is not included among the first 100 professional golf players he choose the Masters, the most difficult tournament in the world,to start a comebackbecause this is where it all began. In 1997,at 22 he won the tournament by 18 strokes, 12 over his nearest competitor, a feat never been done before in the Masters or since. It was similar to the horse Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes by 25 lengths in 1973, on his way to the Triple Crown. In another domain, it is compares with Claudio Arrau, the Chilean pianist, at the age of 15 playing Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas from memory in four successive nights in Berlin.
It is at Augusta that Tiger walks again that hallowed ground where Jones, Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus, Palmer and himself made golf history in the hope he can catch the favorable wind that will carry him to greatness one more time.
That is why I am glued to the TV; to see Tiger ‘s battle against time, against his body, and against his loneliness since the death of Earl, his father and guardian angel. I am alsomesmerized by the 21-year-old Jason Speith holding a four-stroke lead after three days of tournament, being chased by the best and most experienced players in the game, hoping he will hold them off.
The golfing past we miss and the future we see approaching come together among the azaleas, dogwoods and camellias that line the fairways and greens of Augusta National Golf Club. That is what makes this year’s Masters an extraordinary event.