Thursday, July 21, 2005

Behind The Scoreboard
By Claude Vinson

A pair of mega stars

It is really a pleasure to write about two strong men who were (and still are, in one case) representing the United States on different parts of the globe. I am not sure that you could find a pair of nonassuming individuals who have already achieved mega star status.

At the Tour de France, where time and endurance are more important than style and slash, Lance Armstrong was diligently seeking his consecutive seventh Tour title. The best cyclist on the face of the planet admitted to being just a little dismayed at his performance going into the tenth stage last week, but after coming in second behind Alejandro Valverde, still found himself the overall leader.

Then all the riders faced the Challenge of the Pyrenees – the longest stretch in the Tour, some 137 miles filled with steep climbs and adversarial competitors. Armstrong prevailed against all the obstacles and finished the day with a growing swell of Tour watchers acceding the race to Armstrong. The 15th stage followed on Sunday, twice as gruelling though 10 miles shorter than the 14th. The U.S. rep left the day 2:46 ahead of his closest opposition and headed into a day of rest on Monday.

The Tour de France will conclude next Sunday and the yellow jersey will be Armstrong’s to keep, again.

On the same continent but in a much different venue, Tiger Woods was re-validating his reasons for being the most talented golfer since his retiring predecessor made his last stand at the British Open. Both golfers, Woods and Jack Nicklaus, were playing the Old Course (as St Andrews is commonly referred to), the place where the sport of golf was born.

Let me say this in the defense of all the losers who came away less fortunate than the “springing Tiger,” Scotland is a wonderfully, and beautifully impressive country. For someone visiting for the very first time (like yours truly) it is indeed breathtaking. However, the Old Course is kind to no one!

When one looks at the list of golfers taking part in this oldest of tournaments, it reads like a litany of Etruscan nobles. Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson, J.M. Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie, all were there.

As one would put it after the tournament, “We were just there, chasing Tiger Woods.”

The Old Course is beset with difficulties. From the winds which seem to materialize out of nowhere to the unaccommodating terrain, it tries the patience of the world’s best. Even Tiger says that he has always found this the most demanding course.

With the win at St. Andrews, Woods matched the Golden Bear with 10 big ones. He now sits atop the all time money list at $50 million plus.

And although Jack Nicklaus purportedly won’t be trudging the links anymore, he can be assured that his legacy is in good hands.


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