x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Age an irrelevance when class shines

They call the third day of a golf tournament "moving day" - the time when the furniture of a leaderboard can undergo violent change.

They call the third day of a golf tournament "moving day". It has nothing to do with moving house, even if several prominent names, including Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter and Geoff Ogilvy were yesterday free to vacate their rented dwellings after being cut from the final two rounds in Scotland. "Moving day" is a time when the furniture of a leaderboard can undergo violent change.

It is a day to challenge, or to begin to creak under the demands and wander off downhill. There have been momentous periods of upheaval in the history of golf, before this peculiar sport stopped off at Turnberry for the 138th British Open Championship. The lengthy nature of a day here gives one time to reflect, reminisce and dust down the pages of a mental book that is bound by golden memories. One was at Arlington Park, near Chicago, on the weekend of the Arlington Million horse race in Aug 1996. The closing holes of the US Amateur Championship were on television. Woods was concluding his final business as an amateur with all the vitality that marks him out as an original of the species. He defeated Steve Scott at the 38th hole in Oregon to win his third successive amateur crown. Just like some of the world's finest mounts in Arlington, Woods, a colt at the age of 20, looked a thoroughbred.

A week or so later, this onlooker was at the Greater Milwaukee Open to witness Tiger hit his first drive as a professional. Expectations were high then, but one wonders if Woods could have envisaged arriving here 13 years on, only four adrift of Jack Nicklaus's record collection of 18 majors. Woods has been good enough to share his experiences with a wider audience. A bit like Tom Watson with his eight majors, and his noble pursuit of a ninth.

Golf is for all ages, shapes, sizes and intellects. A relatively non-athletic sport. That should not diminish its competitiveness. We seem to be living in increasingly ageist times in the UK. The commentator Peter Alliss is 78. He is an assured lead analyst for the BBC and can be heard on Showtime's feed of the Open in the UAE. Alliss was commentating for a US network on the week that Woods debuted in Milwaukee.

There was an article in one of the British newspapers that questioned his expertise as a commentator after Padraig Harrington won the Open a year ago. It amounted to the biggest load of ill-informed tosh one could read. Similar rot popped up on a forum on the BBC website wondering whether it would be bad for golf if Watson won the Open at the age of 59. Would it be bad if Matteo Manassero won because he is 16?

Like Watson, Alliss has professional prizes and played in Ryder Cups. He is a knowledgeable companion who makes golf an interesting viewing experience when studying a series of mostly nondescript men hitting a little white ball. He is one of the few who deserves his bed in a Turnberry Hotel where several TV sorts are apparently slumming it this week at £1,000 (Dh6,000) a night. It was a day to salute experience yesterday. Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and a survivor of two World Wars, died aged 113. The former US TV news anchor, Walter Cronkite, passed away at 92. "A voice of certainty in an uncertain world," said President Barack Obama.

You can be wise or a fool in your 20s or your 70s, but experience is a unique tool that can be used to enhance ability as Watson has illustrated. His outing here suggests he should continue to slip into his golf spikes rather than slippers when he gets out of bed. dkane@thenational.ae