November 11th, 2009
09:15 PM ET

Tiger brings new excitement to Melbourne

I am a Melbourne boy at heart - the southern Australian city was where I as born and learned to play golf.

Tiger's appearance in the Australian Masters is rivalling the Melbourne Cup in its sporting significance for the locals.
Tiger's appearance in the Australian Masters is rivalling the Melbourne Cup in its sporting significance for the locals.

And like thousands of Melbournians I am thrilled that Tiger Woods is paying a visit to play in the Australian Masters. Sadly I am writing this from London and not from the media center at the course but I am still excited for Australian golf fans.

There will be thousands more spectators paying a visit to the magnificent Kingston Heath just to catch a glimpse of the world number one in action and many more watching on TV.

He hasn’t paid a visit down under for 11 years and he has achieved a lot since then and is now the biggest sports star on the planet.

He brings local and global attention like no other sportsperson and arguably movie star - remember he makes appearances all week and not just a one off on the red carpet.

With that in mind, it will prove to be a great investment by the Victorian Government and some corporate sponsors to pay Tiger’s $3m appearance fee.

My father is the Managing Editor for Rupert Murdoch’s Herald and Weekly times in Melbourne and he says that Tiger is bringing just as much excitement to the city as the Melbourne Cup horse race –- and that’s a big statement of interest in Tiger.

Nothing has ever come close to overshadowing the adrenalin surrounding the Melbourne Cup!

It also means those who don’t really follow golf are interested too.

But horse racing is much bigger in Australia right now than golf and hopefully Tiger will help spark the interest in the sport like Greg Norman did during his heyday.

The top prize for winning the Masters is just AUS$270,000 ($250,000) - part of the reason why top global pros don’t make the long journey down under for the event.

It seems odd that one player is getting 12 times the money of the winner’s cheque for just showing up but that debate is for another time if you ask me.

While Australia doesn’t have a Shark to boost the game it will have to settle for a pricey Tiger.

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Golf
November 11th, 2009
02:07 PM ET

Enke's death shows footballers are human too

The apparent suicide of Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke is a stark reminder that top footballers aren’t immune from the slings and arrows that life throws our way.

We are mourning Robert Enke - Hannover 96's website has been removed of regular content.
We are mourning Robert Enke - Hannover 96's website has been removed of regular content.

In an age when European soccer has never been richer and the rewards for the best players have never been higher it’s easy to envy the game’s stars. Many of them earn more in a week than you or I get paid in a year, simply because they have been born with an exceptional, physical talent.

It’s not easy to empathise with people who are cheered by tens of thousands of fans every week, who travel all over the world at someone else’s expense and who can afford to buy almost anything – houses, jewellery, cars – without thinking twice.

International footballers have lifestyles we can only dream of but that doesn’t mean their lives aren’t a nightmare.

Football may only be a game but, like all professional sport, it is also big business and the pressure to achieve results is huge. Of all the players on the pitch, none is more exposed than the man guarding the net.

As England goalkeeper David James wrote, in the Guardian newspaper earlier this year, “Whereas an outfield player can risk a bad pass and expect to be covered, a goalkeeper has no margin for error. It makes us pretty pedantic and intense at times.”

Tellingly, he goes on to say, “Keepers are guarded and we become more so as we get older.”

Goalkeepers have always been viewed as independent, aloof, a bit quirky even. They pride themselves on being the rock on which a successful team can be built while running the risk that they’ll become the shaky foundations of a bad side.

Robert Enke was a good goalkeeper. He was tipped to be Germany’s number one at next year’s World Cup. After spells with clubs as famous as Barcelona and Benfica, he was playing for Bundesliga side Hannover 96 and his form had attracted interest from the mighty Bayern Munich.

But Enke’s excellence on the field couldn’t protect him from life’s vagaries off it. His two-year-old daughter died three years ago from a heart illness and his wife has admitted the player was suffering from depression. They adopted a baby girl in May and it’s thought Enke was concerned she would be taken away if the authorities learnt about his condition.

If that doesn’t seem an insurmountable problem maybe it simply underlines that Robert Enke’s death is as tragic and mystifying as anyone else’s suicide.

Footballers may be rich and privileged but, in the end, they have no special immunity against the reality of life.

Posted by ,
Filed under:  Football