x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Out of the office and straight into rough, like Tiger Woods

I found myself thinking about the world's No 1 golfer earlier this week when I found myself in Tiger territory at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai.

Tiger Woods, twice a winner of the Desert Classic, has found himself deep in the rough.
Tiger Woods, twice a winner of the Desert Classic, has found himself deep in the rough.

Avid followers of this column - both of them - will recall that I predicted in December that Tiger Woods would return in time for the Augusta Masters. So it won't surprise you that he intends to tee up on April 8 and smite a little white ball among the azalea-lined fairways. It didn't take a genius to work out that a man whose mission in life is to win as many major golf tournaments as possible would not pass up the chance of adding to his tally. There are four majors every year: the Masters; the Open; the US Open; and the American PGA. Jack Nicklaus bagged 18 victories in his illustrious career, while to date the Tiger has trousered 14. But Jack rarely strayed from the fairways, while Tiger has found himself in deep rough.

Augusta is a good place to return. The crowd is keen and respectful, with tickets handed down from father to son (and daughter). Any signs of unruly behaviour and spectators are ejected, never to return. And there are no women members, so his head is unlikely to be turned by a comely face in the locker room. This week we had the unedifying spectacle of watching him apologise again. "A lot has transpired in my life," he told the sports channel ESPN. "A lot of ugly things have happened. Things that - I've done some pretty bad things in my life. And, uh, all came to a head. But now, after treatment, going for inpatient treatment for 45 days and more outpatient treatment, I'm getting back to my old roots."

Poor lad, he looks like he has been brainwashed by the Moonies. It's a sorry tale, and his advisers haven't helped. First they persuaded him to keep mum the night that starred his wife, a fire hydrant and a golf club (it sounds like a Peter Greenaway film, or something that might happen in Cluedo), then encouraged his evasiveness, then wrote that speech. The litany of lame excuses was bad enough, but that shirt was unforgivable. It is enough to make one support Phil Mickelson, his great rival - he at least would never fit his girth into it.

I found myself thinking about the world's No 1 golfer earlier this week when I found myself in Tiger territory. No, I wasn't in a bar surrounded by cocktail waitresses, but prowling the green and verdant fairways of the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. This is where Tiger won the Desert Classic twice, and where I drove my first shot into trees and hit the second virtually sideways. Say what you like about the great man, but he knows how to hit a golf ball.

Colleagues doubtless thought I was skiving, but I was attending the British Business Group's (BBG) inaugural networking opportunity. The Dubai British Business Group is the largest in the region with more than 1,600 members, and puts on about 90 functions a year. It has decided to get together to promote business links via golf, hardly a novel idea, but one that finds widespread appeal among the community.

There were 90-odd players, some playing on the Majlis course, some attending a clinic and some on the nine-hole course. "They are not planned to be exclusively British events," said David Burns, the BBG's director of focus groups. "We are expecting a number of nationalities, including South Africans, and want to encourage more Emirati golfers." On April 18 the group will hold its annual golf day at the Emirates course, during which, among other attractions, the Band of the Royal Marines will be appearing.

As a networking event the golf was very successful. I met this paper's business editor, an elusive and workaholic figure, and a magnificent driver of a golf ball; the publisher of the Dubai free paper 7 Days, a very nice fellow and an excellent driver of a golf cart, and lots of South Africans. They never need an excuse to treat the outdoors like an office, and are always good fun. One told me that when he lived in Cape Town "nobody worked on a Friday". This was news to me; I didn't think anyone there worked at all.

But business on the golf course is an excellent idea. Who can you meet in your office but your colleagues, and what good can they do you? After the golf we assembled in a room and prizes were handed out to just about everybody but me. Somebody won the nearest the pin competition by scoring a hole in one, so I avoided him. I also felt that had exceeded the terms of the deal; he wasn't closest to the pin, but on top of it. There were also a few women networkers, one of whom was handing out chocolates. Like my golfing role model Tiger Woods I avoided them all, because you never know what might happen once you get chatting to the fairer sex. There were words of sympathy for Mr Woods. "He was unlucky," one golfer told me. "He got caught."

Still, as Tiger would no doubt agree, it was good to be back on the course. My only gripe is that the British Business Group's golf event is monthly and not weekly. Like Tiger Woods, I shall be returning to the golf course. It's only when you get off it that bad things can happen. Will he win? Nobody has made money betting against him on a golf course. rwright@thenational.ae