Tiger blown off-course

There is an odd link between the Tiger’s troubles and football. There has been a giant brainstorm since Thierry Henry handled the ball before the goal that knocked the Republic of Ireland out of the World Cup. The two have been shown with Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player of the day, in a razor advert. Now all eyes are waiting to see if Federer, another clean-cut, faultless guy with a happy marriage and twin girls, has a dark side to his character. By Ted Corbett.

What about that Tiger Woods, eh? Who would believe it?

It always comes as a shock; the day you discover that the sports star you placed on a pedestal turns out to be less than a saint.

Tiger had been portrayed in all newspapers, sports magazines and telecasts as a near perfect human being. Think of all that stuff about his start as a highly talented child, how fond he was of his dad; his marriage to a Swedish beauty, his devotion to his two small kids; as well as his dedication to golf practice, his relentless pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s records and his billions of dollars.

This was the guy who had it all. Some people thought that his success enabled Barack Obama to reach for the presidency; but heavens no-one cared about his colour or his racially-mixed background.

We just thought great golfer, perfect gentleman; why can’t some of the guys who reach the top in our sport have such good manners and such a gracious pattern of behaviour.

We didn’t know — if like me you have not been near a great professional golf course or player for 30 years — that the Tiger spat a lot, cussed a lot and lost his temper all the time.

We do now!

He had hardly been dragged out of his 4x4 after hitting a tree and a fire hydrant at 2 a.m. when all those golf writers gave us the whole story.

A couple of weeks after the most publicised minor road accident for a century we have been introduced to a whole new concept.

It has been particularly bad in traditional, conservative, snobbish England. My country is the home of the conventional sports follower who dreams of a day — it never existed by the way — when sportsmen were gentlemen first and players next. Paradoxically it is also the true home of the tabloid reporters who were given a pen that fired vitriol the day they first turn into searchers after the truth and broadsheet word artistes who love nothing better than to make a golden boy into a lad with leaden feet.

The tabloid career killers reported on Tiger’s lady friends, his row with his wife, his website admissions and the fact that he was going to lie low for a month or two after his early morning accident.

The more sober reflections from the posh papers included Tiger’s bad behaviour on course. Oh, mercy me, he was bad mannered.

He had to be taught to take his cap off when he shook hands with opponents — it’s the mark of the true golfer, dating back to the beginning of time, according to one pundit — and his need to pay more attention to the niceties in future.

Of course he is a foreigner and these things have to be pointed out to them but incarceration in the Tower is surely the best fate for such evil-doers.

Shaking hands is the topic of the day on this side of the Atlantic at the moment.

Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal, failed to shake the hand of Mark Hughes, the up-and-coming boss of Manchester City after City had beaten his side 3-0 and was, within a few hours, being described as a bad loser.

We English do love a good loser which may be because we have had a lot of practice in pretending “it’s just a game, good luck next time, old man” whereas Wenger does not consider losing gracefully in his pre-match preparation.

I saw the original incident and, funnily enough, Hughes did not seem to mind too much at that time. He had headed for Wenger to shake hands, realised he was getting the brush-off, shrugged his shoulders and headed on to the field to tell his players how well he thought of their efforts.

Later he must have realised there was publicity to be made from this incident and played it up. Premier League life consists of trying hard for victory or, if the football goes sour, trying to make the opposition look small in some other way.

There is an odd link between the Tiger’s troubles and football. As I told you recently there has been a giant brainstorm since Thierry Henry handled the ball before the goal that knocked the Republic of Ireland out of the World Cup.

Henry has been voted only second villain behind Henry VIII after his offence which was missed by the referee. There have been demands that he should be banned from the World Cup and he still may be disciplined. Just a coincidence of course but what follows could cause an even bigger storm.

The two have been shown with Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player of the day, in a razor advert. Now all eyes are waiting to see if Federer, another clean-cut, faultless guy with a happy marriage and twin girls, has a dark side to his character.

Is it all a load of nonsense about tiny incidents; or is it true that golf, football and tennis need the right image if they are to attract spectators who have, after all, probably some unworthy moments in their own lives? They may even be highly sympathetic to Woods.

For that reason alone I do not believe that his glorious golfing career is finished. Besides he is too valuable to the game in which he is king. It will take more than a crash on his own property to make this Tiger extinct.