There is something amazing about the world’s number one male golfer in this day and age – and it is not just his race, although this makes him pretty unique. No, Tiger Woods is remarkable for so many reasons that he transcends race, and makes the curiosity value that surrounded him for much of his early career completely irrelevant. Whether you like golf or not, you will undoubtedly have heard of him, and this is not something that could have been said for most of the people who preceded him in golf’s premier ranking.
From an early age it was clear that Tiger Woods was a phenomenon. At the age of two – yes, that’s right, two – he appeared on American television showing his adeptness at putting and a year later he played nine holes at California’s Navy Golf Club, making his way around in 48 shots. Now if you don’t know much about golf, take it as fact that that is amazing. Many adult amateurs would dream of shooting 48 for a nine-hole round. To do it at the age of three is incredible.
Tiger Woods turned professional at the age of twenty – not especially remarkable in this day and age, but certainly one of the younger players ever to do so. By the time he had turned professional he was already marked out as one of the most exciting prospects the game had ever seen – in fact, probably undeniably the most exciting. There was no doubt that in terms of coverage, he gained some extra attention for being of mixed race. But the coverage was far more than anything due to the fact that he just kept winning.
As things stand, with Woods just back in the game after eight months out following surgery on his left knee, he remains the top-ranked golfer on the PGA Tour. Despite the injury – with which he played the entire US Open in 2008, and won – Woods’ place was untouched, and at the age of 33 he has spent 536 weeks (more than ten years) at the top of the world rankings. That is more than the three next most successful men in the rankings put together. Those three men? Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.
In terms of the sports modern society is used to, golf has one of the longest and most interesting histories. This is a sport that has been dominating the public conscious for nearly 500 years, and as with anything with roots in Medieval times, has been forced to adapt and change as the world around it does so too.
The first game of recorded golf was in 1456 in Edinburgh, Scotland. This, however, does not mean the Edinburgh game was the first time the sport was played, merely that it was the first time a person took the time to write down the events. In a period of low literacy levels, it is little wonder that some golfing historians say the game has social origins up to 200 years before the first recorded date.
The game itself was recorded in the archives of the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society, and can still be seen today. This confirms golf as a primarily Scottish game, which soon became popular throughout Europe and eventually the world. Much of the spread from Scotland is attributed to King James, who in 1603 became the first monarch of both Scotland and England, creating what we now know as the United Kingdom. Having grown up in Scotland, when King James became King of England following the death of his kinswoman Elizabeth I, the game came south with him. Golf obviously now has a worldwide appeal, yet the Scottish roots remain, with many famous courses still being played by world famous players in the northern country.
The foundation of golf is widely accepted to be the act, usually done by shepherds, of knocking stones into rabbit holes in Scotland during tedious watchings of sheep flocks. From these humble beginnings, the worldwide popular game we now know and love is believed to have stemmed.
All of the traits we associate with modern golf originated and were developed in Scotland. This includes the first 18-hole golf course, the first set of written rules of play and the first membership of golf clubs. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrews is a popular destination for the golfing fan, due to their vast collection of documentation about the foundation of the game.
While some argue that golf has changed and developed from a basic game of hitting stones into rabbit holes to the cultural phenomenon it is today, others say simply: it’s still just about hitting stuff into holes. While this opinion may be crude, it is nevertheless truthful!
When people daydream about becoming the best of the best, the top of their chosen field, few pause to consider the potential drawbacks that such elevation may bring. Yet, for those who are truly remarkable within their own discipline, being so vastly superior to all the other competition can be surprisingly difficult to comprehend. Being the best has its perks, but one must also concede that it can be worryingly lonely.
It is therefore little surprise that two champions, who have dominated their respective sports for much of recent memory, have forged a friendship based on understanding how lonely being the best can be.
In golf, Tiger Woods has been there and done it all. The king of the greens, he is so vastly superior to most other players on the golfing circuit that few bother to even imagine success against him.
In tennis, Roger Federer has very nearly – with the exception of the French Open, which proves elusive – been there and done it all. The king of grass, he plays with the grace of a ballet dancer and many opponents know they have lost before the first ball has even been served.
Woods and Federer have become close friends, these two giants of their own sports. The two were brought together by Nike, who saw the potential of these two living sporting legends and united them for an ad campaign. They have since starred, together with footballer Thierry Henry, in advertisements for razor brand Gillette alongside their Nike commitments. Before the 2007 Wimbledon final – in which Federer played his tennis arch-rival Rafael Nadal – Woods recorded a video message for Federer, via Nike, encouraging his friends to win his fifth title. Both men confess to a friendly rivalry as to who can win the most majors in their respective sports; currently, Woods holds the record at 14, with Federer on 13.
Their friendship has extended beyond the advertising suite. In 2006, Woods was photographed supporting Federer from Federer’s own players’ box as he bid for the US Open title. Both have also openly talked of their friendship in interviews and how it has helped them; citing that only each other, out of everyone on the planet, can really understand the position they are in.