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Tiger Woods, Robert Allenby and Lee Westwood all contribute to golf’s farce without the laughs

Next week Woods is making his first appearance in 12 years at the infelicitously named Waste Management Phoenix Open, more commonly known as ‘The Wasted’, given that half a million Arizona residents use the four days as an excuse to get royally drunk. It is instructive to compare footage of his debut there in 1996 to now. Then, he was the cherubic young phenom, whose first professional hole-in-one at Scottsdale’s 16th sent the hordes into a leaping, beer-hurling frenzy. He all but combusts with euphoria, mischievously exhorting the crowd as they drench themselves in a cloudburst of Coors Light. The image is sepia-tinged, like a picture of lost innocence. This is the before-the-crash Tiger: exuberant, boisterous, smiling. These days, even on holiday, he is every inch the tortured superstar: sulky, snarling, downcast.

One prominent European Tour player tells an anecdote of how on Woods’s first visit to a tournament in the Middle East, he invited him, for a night’s drinking. Woods indicated that he would love to come, but that the paparazzi who would be sure to follow him if he so much as stepped outside the threshold of his six-star hotel were not worth the aggravation. This melancholy little tale set the tone for much of his adult life.

Woods is such a prisoner of his own celebrity that he cannot turn up for the Open without a phalanx of security men that would embarrass the Secret Service and is incapable, if Steinberg is to be believed, of spending a romantic weekend with his partner without being whacked in the face by a rogue lens.

It is the type of scene that belongs in a play: The Sadness of Being Tiger Woods. Then again, Planet Golf is fast turning into a theatre of the absurd. As if the Allenby and Woods escapades are not enough, we learn that Lee Westwood is spending his down-time channelling his inner David Hasselhoff, rescuing a millionaire from the ocean off Barbados.

Truly, Baywatch has nothing on Worksop’s finest amateur lifeguard. And we are worried about the Open switching from the BBC to Sky Sports? On the latest evidence, golf would be more at home on the schedules of Channel Five, somewhere between True Crimes and the dental special of Cosmetic Surgery Live.

Fifa’s saviour? Mitt Romney

Think there is nobody to fill Fifa’s credibility gap? Step forward Mitt Romney, twice a failed Republican presidential candidate and, in a former life, a key figure in restoring the reputation of Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal.

Romney (right) is understood to be the preferred choice of Bonita Mersiades, the Australian whistleblower who has brought many corruption allegations against Fifa, to help lead an independent panel holding the decrepit world governing body to account. He is far from an outlandish choice.

Romney was chosen to spearhead the Olympic efforts in Utah in 2002 because of his untainted image and, as he secured record levels of US federal funding for the Games, volunteers wore “Mitt, we love you!” badges. He could bring some needed gravitas to the anti-Fifa movement if he abandons his designs on the White House in 2016.

Africa’s cup now a horror show

Equatorial Guinea’s staging of the Africa Cup of Nations resembles a dictator’s desperate vanity project. This tiny, oil-rich country was only allowed to step in after Morocco took fright at fears of an Ebola pandemic, and the preposterousness of the switch is fast becoming clear.

Reporters travelling back to the capital Bata from Mongomo, home to the clan of president Teodoro Mbasago, tell of driving down a four-lane motorway to which civilians are denied access. Not only is the place undemocratic, it is also dangerous in terms of its inability to handle a health crisis arising from people arriving from Ebola-affected areas.

The tournament is already losing lustre, as a consequence of African teams’ abysmal World Cup showing at the last World Cup and the continent’s marquee players being past their prime. The last thing it needs is a basket-case of a host.


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