IOL Cricket writer Lungani Zama.

Last weekend had an air of the old-school about it.

For one, there was an exceptional AB de Villiers century in the midst of a South African Test match. Of course, the Proteas’ number four is not in the business of ugly runs, so the spectacle in Port Elizabeth was truly one to savour.

But, there was more to last weekend than that.

The French rugby side did what they used to be renowned for, as they flipped the form book on England, and stole off with the points in Paris. Only the French; always the French. 

Rugby has never  nor will they ever  know a side quite as Machiavellian as Les Bleus, who can seemingly turn on the charm and the chagrin at the same time. Even so, there was still more to last weekend than the artful whims at the Stade de France.

On Sunday, around the world, alarm clocks were set around the antics of one man again. Once more, the world went back on ‘Tiger Watch’, as golf’s biggest superstar confirmed his return to actual competitive action.

He had flitted about with a missed cut and a competent finish, but the Valspar Championship was his most sincere suggestion that he is ready to look the big boys in the eye again. And, what is more, he is ready to be not the first to blink.

That signal of intent alone was enough to rouse a gaggle of golfing groupies so deep and diverse that Woods must have almost felt like he won, even though he didn’t quite get the ‘W’ he craves. Olympic legend Michael Phelps tuned in. So too did Hollywood royalty, and megastars from other sporting codes.

Heck, even the cream of the golfing crop stuck their Tiger stripes to the mast. Justin Thomas, the game’s hottest property right now, sat back at home and watched his hero - and he told the world he was doing just that, too.

19h50 South African time, 13h50 in some parts of North America, 17h50 in the UK everyone reminded anyone they knew who cared about what time to tune in for golf’s magnet in Sunday red. It is one of the game’s oddities that Woods is now confronted by the very boys that he inspired to ‘Tiger Line’ it 20 years ago.

Precious few other sports allow for that generational full-circle. The ageless Roger Federer may have confronted a few upstarts who looked to him in the 2000s, but he may yet walk away before those young lions have found their full roar.

Woods, however, will get an extended chance to duel with fans turned rivals. Last week’s winner, Paul Casey, openly admitted that he was rooting for Woods to win - if it wasn’t to be his week. The Brit almost saw both his wishes come true, as Woods took the drama to his 72nd hole.

Next time, perhaps. Thomas will return to action soon, and put his Tiger poster to one side, as he looks to beat up his hero in combat by steel and graphite. It’s a peculiar old thing, but the latest coming of Woods has been met with a near reverential sentiment.

The golfing world knows that he, too, is merely a mortal. Plenty of water has passed under his off-course bridge and even his game drowned at one point. He had the dreaded yips, which any golfer who has suffered them will attest to be the sport’s equivalent of the stutter.

You grasp for composure but cannot find it, betrayed by a seemingly terminal loss of control of the nerves and hands. Woods dragged himself from that low point, and has somehow got back to something approaching his vintage touch around the greens.

And so, the world is intrigued once more about a narrative that has stretched beyond two decades now. He is an eternal magnet for attention, for reasons far beyond his swing. Happily, his headlines now are all to do with his game. The Tiger is winning, and he hasn’t even lifted a trophy yet.

Just imagine the roar when he actually wins again.


Sunday Tribune

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