look no further for any star warmer than the sun,
shining by day through the lonely sky,
and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia.
Pindar, Olympian 1, For Hieron of Syracuse (476 B. C.)
I follow golf. Avidly. Play golf? Not at all. When I did play, golf played me. After years of golf-induced psychosis my conservator confiscated my clubs, converting them to gardening tools. Finally I learned, golf, like plumbing, is best left to professionals. Watch, don't touch. Bob Hope summarized it well:
If you play it, it's recreation.
If you work at it, it's golf.
As mortals, almost all of these golfing maestros of the past played off key at times, as do those presently afield. Injury wracked some (Nicklaus, Sorrenstam, Trevino, Woods), swing lapses afflicted others (Woods, Ballesteros), putting woes felled many, (Watson, Palmer, Miller), temperament too (Montgomery, Faldo), or personal disasters (Duval, Woods). Most recovered, others did not. One of the greats, David Duval, apparently could not recover from winning his long-awaited first major championship, the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham. From thence forward, Duval never won again, and rarely was competitive. As for Tiger's self-inflicted emotional injuries, injuries which laid low many others as well, they still linger, I think, and, combined with his physical injuries, interfere with the rapt concentration he is known for, just as Nicklaus was. This game, one that demands precise coordination of physicality and mental focus, can be upset rather easily, with small injuries, or emotional setbacks, derailing even the greater golfers for short periods or forever more, as with David Duval.
Interestingly, if you like numerology - and I do, when it serves my theme - in antiquity there were 19 geological features on our planet called "Olympus" (Olympos, in Greek, Ὄλυμπος). The iconic Greek mountain, of course, home of Zeus and Hera and the ten other mythological gods and goddesses. But there were eighteen others. The number 19 looms in golf mythology as well. As a goal only sought by mortals who seek immortality. Recall that Jack Nicklaus accumulated 18 major professional championships. By his own admission, Tiger Woods' horizon is dominated by Jack Nicklaus, and consequently by the numbers 18 and, its golf apotheosis, 19. At the age of 36, Jack and Tiger each held 14 majors. Tiger's number, the number that drives him forward, is 19, the profound number of major victories that captures first place among the greats. Then, perhaps by acclamation, Mr. Woods will be installed at the summit of golf as the greatest ever to command a golf club and ball.
And this week, portentously, Tiger will play at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, home of Olympians of many sports since 1860. And, numerologists know, if one adds the numbers in 1860, one arrives at 15. A win at Olympic would give Tiger his 15th major championship. . .
Perhaps the Olympian gods of the game are gathering at Mount Olympus to watch one of their own challenge the heights. Just five miles from the Olympic Club stands San Francisco's very own Mount Olympus. . . Augury and wizardry everywhere.
For info about the history of the Olympic Club of San Francisco, go here.