Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady braved the elements at Medalist, raised millions for charity and proved that tournament golf can exist safely, says David Livingstone…
We wondered a couple of months ago if the superstars of sport would sign up to the new perspective of a world in crisis, and the last two Sundays have answered a big “yes” for Golf.
Tiger and Phil took the spirit of Rory and Rickie’s skins game the previous week and added several layers of proof that these guys can stop thinking about themselves for more than five minutes.
In the first match at Seminole, Rory and Rickie, together with Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolff, carried their own bags, worked out their own yardages, and tolerated stop-start progress in an unfamiliar format.
On Sunday at the Medalist, Tiger and Phil raced through the incessant rain in their custom carts and inspired partners Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to battle on right to the end in conditions no Tour player would have to endure.
On both Sundays, circumstances alone dictated that the stars of the show had to accept overall standards of play, conditions, and TV production that were not ideal but were deemed to be a worthy sacrifice in pursuit of the greater good.
In return, we television fans can surely set aside our own high expectations of sports entertainment and applaud the efforts and achievements of everyone involved in raising more than $25m for COVID-19 relief.
As well as providing help for those who need it most, these two events came at just the right time, when some of us were beginning to wonder if we’d ever overcome the fear of restarting professional sport.
Seeing the absolute top superstars of golf – and two likeable legends of NFL – put their reputations and their well-being on the line is an example of how much trust our professional sportsmen and women will have to place in the administrators of their games.
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Golf is going to have a key role in the reawakening of sport and the PGA Tour’s scheduled restart in the middle of June will be watched closely by others hoping to follow.
These two Sundays in May have been excellent trials for how full-sized golf tournaments can work within safety guidelines, but they’ve also been useful as a yardstick for what we expect from our sports at the highest levels.
As enjoyable as both charity occasions were, they reminded us of what we were missing week-in, week-out and what we will be truly appreciating whenever the really big events come around. By then, these dark days of worry and anxiety may be receding in our memory, but I sincerely hope the admirable care and concern for others shown by all the top golfers in their lockdown days is not forgotten.
In truth, the charity work of professional golfers has always been unstinting but perhaps in these last couple of months they’ve had time to observe more closely the world around them and become aware of the day-to-day issues that affect even fellow sportsmen and women who are in a weaker position.
I said right at the start of this crisis that I hoped a lasting outcome would be more thoughtfulness in golf towards areas of the game where it’s a fight for survival. That’s a term we once used for small-time golf but now it applies to big organisations like the European Tour, the women’s equivalent, and even the LPGA Tour in the United States.
Yes, I know it’s naïve to think that independent contractors like professional golfers are going to think of anything but themselves in deciding where and when to play, but I’m still living in hope that they’ll all have a thought now and again about how they can help their fellow players.
Which brings me back to the Ryder Cup that may or may not happen in September. I know I’m something of a lone voice appealing for it to go ahead without fans but, as I’ve said before, I think it would be good for the game.
Just as Tiger and Rory and their friends embraced something less than perfect these past two Sundays, our Ryder Cup stars could set aside their own desire to be acclaimed by fans in favour of a huge symbolic gesture of recovery, all the more noticeable because of its difference from any other edition.
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