There’s something about seeing a loved one growing older. Mindsets change. More acutely so if ill health is part of the equation. Certain things become susceptible to being shut off. A cupboard is kept locked. Books remain unopened, shelves undisturbed. It’s as if it’s going on but there’s an inability or unwillingness – or both – to see it. Yet the reality of the inevitability in escapable.
At what would rightly be construed as more mundane levels of life, similar feelings often take hold equally. Obviously, no matter what angle they are viewed from, few will be as impactful as the scenarios outlined above, but, for those for whom sport is an intrinsic part of the fabric of life, any dramatic shifting of the sands therein can be immeasurably profound in its aftermath.
Think of how Kerry folk must have felt at the evaporation of five in a row and what transpired for a few seasons thereafter. Or the discernible change of tack which occurred within snooker when Stephen Hendry was eventually usurped. Ponder also how the game would or will seem should Ronnie O’Sullivan exit stage. Hopefully that won’t become an issue for a long time.
Golf aficionados of a certain vintage have had to the reduction in competitiveness and output – if not the thankfully unquenchable appeal – of luminaries of the game in Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and, more recently, Tom Watson. Time may wait for no man, woman or child but it adds sheen to the already glowing in the most especial of cases.
That it’s unlikely to do so in the case of Tiger Woods would’ve been wholly inconceivable less than a decade ago. It recalls those eerily moving lines from The Green Fields Of France “In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained, and faded to yellow in a brown leather frame”. With every passing tournament, recollections of his once unmatchable greatness slip further in that direction.
Now, in my case, an interest in golf was to a certain extent implanted owing to former Walker Cup player and renowned course designer the late, great Tom Craddock numbered among extended family. It’s a source of great pride that among the sports memorabilia close to home is Tom’s ‘Golden Goose’ putter which he used in the famed amateur joust.
For many, however, the magnetic excellence of Woods was what initially got them stuck into golf. Thus, seeing him reduced to an irrelevance and an all too easy subject for mockery will be decidedly unpalatable. Even if the player’s evisceration may have been hastened by circumstances removed from golf and largely self inflicted, it hasn’t made it any easier seeing it unfold.
Be that as it may, golf has moved on and left Woods behind. To contextualise the rapidity of evolution within golf’s upper echelons, circumstance has positioned things in such a way that reservations about the immediacy with which Jordan Spieth may replace Rory McIlroy as officially the best player in the world are receding. Then again, if ever evidence that presumptions can take on a life of their own was required it proliferated as talk of the young American garnering the Grand Slam of Majors in one season dissipated. Albeit the evasiveness of the extraordinary feat was aided by the fabled difficultness of St Andrew’s being further buffered by crazy weather.
But then, adaptability tends to be a key component concerning any success, whatever sphere it may be in. So, in one way it should been little surprise to see Irish players warming – though that scarcely seems apt – to the conditions. Certainly in the case of Padraig Harrington. For all that enigmatic streak will perhaps eternally define the Ballyboden man, a rejuvenation of his undoubted talent and class has latterly been evident as well.
While the complexities which have mitigated against Harrington being even more successful than he unquestionably has been reared their head at precisely the wrong time, the uplifting emergence of the hitherto unheralded Paul Dunne over the course of what ended being five days represented only part of a case of momentum delivering in the short and long term.
There’s something unique special about Monday golf. Maybe any top level sport on a Monday. As with when Goran Invanisevic eventually exorcised his Wimbledon shortcomings in 2001, there was something unforgettable about Europe’s annexation of the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in 2011 and Harrington motoring through the Honda Classic earlier this year.
In both the last named examples, the allure was even greater due to the Irish interest. And for a long time the elongated battle for the Claret Jug appeared destined to have a similar hue as Greystones amateur Dunne gave hope that a sporting fairytale was about to unfold and make it another manic Monday.
Only for momentum to assume the guise of a double edged sword. Such was the irresistible force behind Zach Johnson on the extra day that he emerged a most deserving winner. While Dunne’s exceptional showing should keep momentum behind what are storied times for Irish golf.