x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Gracious golf

Golf reclaims its glory through unlikely heroes

A year ago, golf was suffering from an image crisis. Tiger Woods, its greatest ever exponent, was caught in a scandal that cost him his marriage and struck a devastating blow to his professional career.

But it seems that the game is slowly but surely regaining its former stature thanks to several unfortunate, if laudable, incidents in the last few weeks.

As The National reported yesterday, Kevin Na, the 27-year-old Korean-American, with nearly US$10 million (Dh36.7m) in career earnings, suffered a meltdown last weekend to become first professional to card 16 on a par-4 hole, the 474-yard ninth hole at the Texas Open. What gave his ordeal poignancy was the grace that he displayed in the face of a situation that would have driven others to madness.

This follows on from two major nightmares suffered by the Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy in the last several weeks. The gifted 21-year-old went into the final round of the Masters at Augusta with a four shot lead, only to collapse completely on the final day. A week later, McIlroy showed remarkable courage to lead the Malaysian Open only to once again let it slip on the final nine holes. His perseverance and level of performance earned him widespread acclaim from experts who predict that he will go on to win many majors in the future. These incidents, and the return of Woods himself, should ensure golf regains the goodwill, and fans, that it lost in a troubled 2010.