JOHANNESBURG – Back in 1928, millionaire American industrialist Harvey Firestone provided the ultimate off-duty amenity for his work-force, a golf course for their own use, Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
Old rubber man Harvey didn’t know it at the time, of course, but - 70 years or so down the line - it turns out he would also be gifting Tiger Woods the pitch perfect place to peg it up.
We golfers all know that Tiger won the WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone an astonishing eight times in 15 starts between 1999 and 2013 (his victory in 2000 with a mind-blowing 259 aggregate).
Okay, then he had his down years. But now he finally appears to be right back pretty much near to where he was in his pomp.
And in spite of a slightly faltering finish two Sundays back at Carnoustie in The Open Championship - which he actually led briefly to have people talking about the possibility of that 15th Major after all - he did just enough to squeeze into this year’s 73-man line-up for the 2018 Bridgestone beginning at Firestone tomorrow.
Woods plays there this week for the first time since 2014, and so yes - it’s going to be intriguing for us in our armchairs to see what he can do now, although many will rate golf’s superman, the herculean Dustin Johnson, as favourite following his Canadian Open victory on Sunday with a birdie blitz that got him to a heady 23-under-par, and was his third PGA Tour win this year.
Johnson aside, two other performances caught my attention, and maybe you too, about this past Sunday in the world of golf.
The back nine duel in the British Senior Open at St Andrews between those two old masters, Miguel Angel Jiménez and defending champion Bernhard Langer (still, incredibly, a birdie machine at 60), was a classic, with Jiménez - so comfortable in his own skin, so confident with club in hand - edging the German by a stroke.
Jiménez therefore followed in the spike-marks of his fellow Spaniard, the late, great Seve Ballesteros, by capturing a Major Championship - albeit a Senior One - at The Home of Golf.
Thirty-four years after swashbuckling Seve won The Open over the iconic Old Course, Jiménez was inspired by the memory of his close friend as he joined the pantheon of greats who have triumphed at St Andrews. Jiménez closed with a final round of 69 for a 12-under-par total of 276 to claim his second Senior Major of the year, and his first Senior Open.
“This is one of my biggest victories,” said the affable, pony-tailed Spaniard after lighting up one of his giant trademark Havanas. “And it was a change for me to beat Bernhard who usually kicks our asses.”
Okay Miguel, you do have a point there but you’ve also kicked a good deal of butt since turning 40, Iike an amazing 14 times on the regular European Tour, and now making it big among the over-50s brigade.
Sunday also witnessed South Africa’s Justin Harding capturing the Royal Cup in Thailand by a runaway six-shot margin on the Asian Tour, after opening with a pair of red-hot 64s. The 32-year-old is, impressively, the first player to win two straight titles in his first two appearances in Asia as he also did the business in the Indonesia Open two weeks ago as a sponsor’s invite.
No surprise - he immediately took up membership of that tour as a kind of second home. His Royal Cup success marks his fourth win in 2018, two of which were on the Sunshine Tour and he currently leads the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
So well done Justin, you’re certainly one to watch and we’ll forgive you for not being able to pronounce the name of the man who the Royal Cup is held in honour of - His Majesty the King of Thailand Maha Vajiralongkorn - wait for it - Bodindradebayavarangkun, who celebrated his 66th birthday on Sunday.