Tiger Woods may only be 34 but many
believe he will never be as great as before following his five month absence.
Woods made a high profile return to
golf at the Augusta Masters last weekend and came a credible fourth.
Fellow American Phil Mickelson won
it but throughout the four day tournament Woods was the focal point of
Cayman Free Press publisher Brian Uzzell
paid $300 for his ticket but on the black market they were going for 20 times
A golf nut, Uzzell is often seen on
the courses in Cayman and Jamaica hacking his way out of bunkers.
Seeing Woods return after his time
out to address infidelity issue which involved going to rehab for sex
addiction, made it more than a mere golfing spectacle. Uzzell joined the circus
and was amazed at the extent Woods was protected in what is normally an
extremely strictly monitored environment anyway.
“It was a totally controlled
atmosphere there,” Uzzell said. “The authorities have total and utter control
like I’ve never seen for any other golf tournament in the world.”
All big golf tournaments guard
their branding and merchandise rights so carefully that no cell phones, cameras
or any form of recording devices are allowed in. But this one reached new
They were so strict that even
Uzzell’s innocuous little Cayman Islands flag was confiscated.
“When I queried it they said it was
advertising. I said: ‘But it’s only a national flag.’ They told me because I
hadn’t bought it there I couldn’t take it in.
“I saw two people with T-shirts
emblazoned with advertising turned away. They had to go to the gift tent and
buy two Masters T-shirts.”
Any form of perceived bad behaviour
at Augusta receives the most severe punishment. Not only are you evicted but
your electronic badge is withdrawn and you are banished for life.
“Consequently, the crowd is totally
controlled. They control tee times, what TV network has the tee times,
Woods is still in disgrace as far
as the golf fraternity is concerned.
“The chairman of the golf
association the night before gave an interview and said that he felt Tiger had
let everybody down by his actions and he didn’t like it.
“They feel that he’s the idol and
the person everybody looks up to, including the youths and why so many young
people have got into golf, including black people and that is what they were
very upset about.”
Woods did not stay in the compound
with the other golfers and rented a house away. His estranged wife Elin and two
children did not make the trip.
“The adoration was still there and
you could always tell where Tiger was because of the size of the crowd around
him. He is still a celebrity and he is news.
“It’s very difficult to get
anywhere near him. I tried to see him tee off on the first green and all I
could see was the top of a club and a ball disappearing.
“So I virtually ran to the green to
see if I could find him and I got a glimpse. So I went to the eighth green
where the bleachers were and sat in the front row for an hour and a half so
that I could actually see him.
“I chose the right one because
that’s the hole that he had an eagle on which was his first minus score of the
“The whole atmosphere there is a
little bit like Disneyworld Golf. It’s all so immaculate. You are walking on
fairways basically and they look like a solid green carpet.
“There’s not an ounce of rubbish
anywhere. There’s people walking behind you with sticks and bags, it’s quite
“However, you don’t have to walk
around with a bag full of goodies if you’ve bought them. There are places you
can either take a tag and pick them up later or they’ll ship them home for you.
“There are a lot of facilities
there. It’s well worked out, it’s just a homogenized setting and takes away the
general atmosphere of a modern golf tournament.
“I don’t think Tiger will get the
same treatment anywhere else. He’s going to have to select his next tournament
carefully. Nowhere will the crowds be controlled to that degree and I think
he’s going to get heckled.
“It was noticeable as he went
around that there were a lot of people who did not applaud. So although they
did not say anything nasty because it was the Masters you could see that many
were not particularly keen on him. You had true golf aficionados.
“I think the crowd’s reaction in
the future will severely affect him because he is a very emotional man.
“He had an outburst when a couple
of profanities broke out because he plays on his emotions.
“He is brilliant but he is inclined
to let his temperament get the better of him and if that goes on to a course
where the people are heckling him then I think it could become an incident.”
Picking this tournament was
probably the best one to come back to for Woods, thinks Uzzell because an
American still won. Mickelson was full of emotion too; he devoted his win to
wife Amy who recently beat cancer.
Woods always claimed when he turned
pro that his career ambition was to beat the 18 Masters Jack Nicklaus won.
Tiger has won 14 but Uzzell doubts if he can beat the record.
“I think Tiger’s ability is
unquestionable. There were times in this competition when you saw the great
Tiger. However, it goes to his emotions and that’s what he’s got to control and
rise above and I don’t know that he can do that. It’s not his style of play.
“If you’ve noticed, in the last
four or five years he has been going down that emotional path.
“Maybe it was a result of his
infidelity. It’s still there. And there are an awful lot of very good golfers
now, including the Koreans and Europeans. I think he’s going to have a hard
time getting back.
“I don’t see him passing Nicklaus’
record. He’s not past his prime but I think he’s hit a limit. He’s still a
great golfer and wonderful to watch. On the greens he’s still sensational but
if his putter lets him down he’s finished because some of the other shots are
wild. I think he’s got a tough time coming.”