Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Tigger and Tiger: Let Battle Commence

By Shane Thomas

Euro 2012 isn't for another three months, and the London Olympics are still a way over the horizon, but Sunday night saw what potentially could be the most momentous sporting story of the year.

Rory McIlroy won the Honda Classic, becoming golf's new World Number 1 atop the rankings. However, it's not McIlroy's impressive victory that should set tongues wagging, rather than the man who finished as the runner-up in Florida, and pushed him all the way; Tiger Woods.
Come on, you must remember Tiger. Used to the planet's premier sports star. Has a penchant for blondes. Once crashed into a fire hydrant.

His indiscretions off-course and more recent struggles on it have caused some to forget that this guy can be quite handy with a set of golf clubs. Woods was only able to win a singular tournament last year, and has been going through a painstaking process of remodelling his game. But he has looked more like the Tiger of old in recent weeks, and his stunning final round of 62 was a warning shot across the bows of those who thought that he would no longer be a factor in the game.

But it matters little to McIlroy. How often has Woods shot a round of 62 and still not won a tournament? After breezing into the sport, all exuberance and Tigger-like alacrity, McIlroy is making good on the promise seen in him as a child. Winning last year's US Open in supreme (almost as if he was Tiger) fashion, he is now officially the best player in the sport. Make no mistake, Rory is no pretender, he is the man. And you can be sure that this nags away as Woods' very core.

This sets up an intriguing next three weeks before we hit the first major of the year, The Masters. Both McIlroy and Woods would fancy their chances at the best of times, such is the way their game lends to the majestic course at Augusta National. But if both men arrive on peak form, then it could be a two-way shootout for the prized Green Jacket.

And more than that, last Sunday could mark the beginning of a rivalry that would grip the sporting world for years to come. We've probably seen the best days of the epic contests between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the world of tennis, but McIlroy and Woods has the potential to be just as captivating.

Great rivalries occur when two people's respective thirst for victory causes the other to produce their best standard of competition. If Rory and Tiger end up in a slugfest for golf's major prizes, who would come out on top?

Who cares. The only certainty is that it would produce mesmeric sport. Either way, we all win.

- Talking of two-way contests, it looks as if the job of managing the England rugby union team will go to one of two men, Nick Mallett, or the current caretaker incumbent, Stuart Lancaster.

Regardless of who you think should get the job on a full-time basis, the reaction of some members of the punditocracy has been puzzling. They can't seem to understand why there aren't more higher profile contenders for the position. It's the greatest job in rugby union. It should be a bunfight.

Well no. It shouldn't be. Yes, it's the most well paid job in the sport. And England have the most valuable resources and money than any other national federation, but that doesn't necessarily make it the best job.

How could it? Have these people not been paying attention to the England side recently? A dismal World Cup has been followed by a gradual recovery in the 6 Nations. But the Grand Slam and Triple Crown have already gone. And retaining the 6 Nations title is unlikely. It smacks of that stereotypical English arrogance to think that rugby union's great and good would come flocking to Twickenham simply because it's England.

The RFU seem to think that throwing money at the problem will fix it, as if success is a thing that can be bought. It's a tactic redolent of the Football Association. Remind me, how did that work out for them again?

- So, Andre Villas-Boas is gone from Chelsea, the club are 5th in the Premier League, and are set to go out of the Champions League. How did this happen? Read the children's book, The Ant and The Grasshopper. And when you're done reading it, you could do worse then send a copy to one R.Abramovich, West London.

"The Greatest Events in Sporting History" is available to download from http://www.simplysyndicated.com/shows/sportinghistory/, e-mail us at sportshistoryshow@googlemail.com and you can follow us on Twitter @TGEISH

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