I haven’t ever uttered this in so many words before, but I’ve always considered golf to be a dodgy sport. After all, how can you trust a man — let alone have babies with him — who swings a rod, thwacks a ball, walks a distance, swings and thwacks a ball again, and keeps walking until the ball plonks into a hole?
I have a few friends who are golf enthusiasts. They are fine folks with firm handshakes and seem to be impeccable husbands. But somehow, even with all that chatter about grips, swings and Jeev Milkha Singh’s handicap (which happens to be his father Milkha Singh going on and on about how the old man missed out on a medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics) and business banter over tees, I sense their attention being lodged elsewhere. It seems to me that they’re playing golf for some unspoken reason other than, well, playing golf.
And then, when I heard the Tiger Woods story unravel over the last week, I understood what exactly playing golf was really all about: putting on a cool, calm, sophisticated front oozing pre-meltdown Wall Street charm while enabling something more neurotic and Brylcreem-like to remain tucked away inside for very selective viewing.
It took an SUV crash into a tree at 2.30 a.m. after a row with his wife Elin Nordegren for Tiger Woods — and the sport he’s a household name the world over for — to be exposed. Perhaps a sporting star suffering a minor car accident is the perfect moment for women to come out of their gopher holes and talk about their flings with the celebrity victim. Or maybe it’s after they hear that the Missus has already come to know of her man’s busting No. 6 of the Ten Commandments that they find themselves sharing their secrets about Tiger Woods with the world. But with media attention moving quickly from an irate wife using her golfer-husband’s working tool on her golfer-husband to all those whom the Valentino-ing-golfer tee-hee-ed off with, Tiger’s ladies have been coming out of the closet like queens on a gay parade.
There’s the lingerie model who says she had sex with Woods for 18 months before feeling crummy about bonking a married man. Then there’s the porn star whose comments about Tiger being “the whitest black boy you’ve ever met in your life. His teeth are perfect and he’s a perfect gentleman” has made Barack Obama’s aides wonder what their boss doesn’t have that Woods has. There’s also the cocktail waitress who made a moving apology on TV to Elin for having a 31-month fling (hurl?) with Woods. Elin’s moved to another house, while Woods’ handlers try to soothe her — by getting the couple’s pre-nuptial agreement re-written in her favour. Only in America.
Now, would you have thought Tiger to have been such a randy dandy? I doubt it. Shane Warne? Of course. David Beckham? Very much possible. Rahul Dravid? Why not? Any basketball player? Goes with the job. But solid, upright, well-postured Brand Tiger? Who would have thought.
Well, I did.
Like incest, clunky gold watches and living-room fountains, there’s something hokey about golf. The sport is as what-you-see-isn’t-what-you-get as Deepak Chopra, double-breasted jackets and management workshops involving ‘trust games’. The sport is, I’m told, a complex, subtle mix of skill and mental toughness and silly shoes. That sounds ominously like the skills needed to be a good adulterer.
Those clean, collared T-shirts tucked deep into the trousers along with those punches in the air after a winning shot so give the game away. Golfers practise the art of controlled, sophisticated deception, making a walkabout in the park look like a tough man’s tough game. So is it such a surprise that the greatest golfer is the world’s finest cad? It’s no surprise for me at all.
That golf encourages adultery now comes from the golfer himself as Tiger talks about saving his marriage by quitting the game. Would Shane Warne, Ian Botham or Sourav Ganguly leave cricket to be better husbands? Of course not. They’d just try not to cheat on their wives (if they were cheating).
So here’s a frank tip from a genuine well-wisher of the Tendulkar family. Anjali, keep Sachin away from the golf course. Before it’s too late.