When I was in my teens, my father took me to see a film called Follow the Sun about the amazing comeback of Ben Hogan, the great American golfer, from a car crash into a Greyhound bus that smashed his body and brought him close to death. He was warned that he might never walk again unaided. Yet a few months later in 1950 he won the US Open after a dramatic four-way play-off and added six majors to the three he had won before the crash.
This film came to mind when I read about the terrible car crash suffered by Tiger Woods last week. Could he do the same as Hogan and make a comeback and win the three majors he needs to catch the record of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus?
I’m afraid not. He is 45, nine years older than Hogan was in 1950 and weakened by severe back injuries that have resulted in major surgery on five occasions, the last one only two months ago.
Professional tournament golf is now dominated by athletic men in their prime, many of them nearly two decades younger than Woods. He has suffered for years from an addiction to painkillers and sleep medications that caused him to crash another car in 2017 and get himself arrested on drug charges.
Eight years before that he made his notorious car crash into a fire hydrant and then a tree, “shaking loose,” as a writer put it, “a multitude of cocktail waitresses, lingerie models and porn actresses.”
He won’t see it this way, but he can look back on one of the greatest golfing careers in history. When he first won the Masters by 12 strokes at the age of 21, he was hailed as a sporting demigod, up there with Mohammed Ali and his idol Michael Jordan. His victory by 15 strokes in the 2000 US Open will probably never be beaten.
He may lag behind Nicklaus in majors, but he is ahead of him with 82 victories in PGA tournaments, tying with Gene Sarazen. For all his triumphs, however, Tiger is destined to be remembered for the failures of character that denied him the fulfilment of his unrivalled golfing promise. He will always be haunted by the thought of what might have been.
Chest Feeding” error
In my column last week about the introduction of phrases like “chest-feeding” and “human milk” as alternatives to “breast-feeding” and “breast milk” in the language used by midwives, I was unfair to Brighton and Sussex National Health Service Trust, who announced these new terms.
I should have made it clear that they were not replacements for the traditional language but alternatives they could use in cases involving transgender people. As a result of this omission, I was more critical than the Trust deserved. I accept that their aim was to be inclusive rather than prescriptive.
A farce on cricket’s biggest stage
What a farce the third Test in Ahmedabad turned out to be. England’s abject collapse in both innings to totals of 112 and 81, their lowest ever in India, raises three questions: was it caused by bad batting, by brilliant bowling or by a pitch that was not up to Test match standard?
The answer is all three. England’s batsmen, unused to Indian conditions and fearing a hand grenade from every ball, played with minds that were scrambled. Although the ball span viciously at times, 10 of the 12 dismissals of the top six batsmen came from missing straight balls. England’s selection of three quick bowlers - and only one spinner to India’s three – was suicidally inept.
Nineteen of England’s wickets fell to spin bowlers. Their pace bowlers managed only one Indian wicket between them. What made the selection even more maddening was that Mo-en Ali had taken eight wickets with his off-breaks in the previous Test - and was then sent home.
This resting of players in the middle of a series has worked out badly for England. Jonny Bairstow, for example, played well in Sri Lanka and was then sent home for two weeks, breaking his run of good form, and on his return he was out for two ducks.
A pitch that caused the Test to be finished within two days is no good for cricket, no good for spectators, and no good commercially either.
This was the first Test match played in the world’s biggest cricket stadium, capable of holding 110,000 spectators. A few years ago in Melbourne, where the ground holds slightly less, a surprising thought hit me. The whole mystique of the MCC is built on the fact that Lord’s holds only 30,000. People have to be elected as MCC members – for which there is always a long waiting list - to be sure of getting tickets for Test matches at Lord’s. If the ground was bigger, there would be no need for that and the whole MCC mystique would disappear.
Sturgeon’s fight to the death
Will the bitter feud between Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor as Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, damage the country’ chances of achieving independence?
It is beginning to look possible, especially if Salmond’s claim of a “malicious and concerted conspiracy” to drive him from public life and get him imprisoned is backed by solid evidence, and if he can prove when Sturgeon knew what she knew about the matter. If, as a result, it can be shown that she lied to the Scottish Parliament, she would have to resign.
When the British Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister, Robert Buckland, said “the political temperature in Holyrood is high,” he wasn’t exaggerating. He is “dismayed” by the inquiry into Salmond’s accusations that is being conducted by a committee of the Scottish Parliament – as well he might be.
When Salmond gave written evidence to the committee, part of it (presumably the most explosive part) was redacted on the orders of the Scottish Crown Office, which is run by a member of Sturgeon’s Cabinet. Even though the High Court ruled that the redaction was not required by law, the chair of the committee, a Sturgeon loyalist who was once sacked by Salmond, will not allow the points raised in the redacted evidence to be put to Sturgeon when she gives her evidence this coming week.
This apparent failure to hold the First Minister to account has brought a charge from Ruth Davidson in the Scottish Parliament of “a culture of secrecy and cover-up.” Other comments have referred to “the decay of Scottish democracy” and that “the useless and authoritarian SNP is turning Scotland into a failed state.”
The committee’s failure to give proper scrutiny of Sturgeon’s conduct – and her own weasly implication (in a briefing on the pandemic) that a jury in a criminal case was wrong to find Salmond innocent of sexual harassment charges – give the public little confidence that the government’s other failures in health and education will get impartial scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament.
Sturgeon is in a fight to the death for her political career and I doubt if the fight will be a clean one.