Tiger Woods - the new black pied piper - by Abdullah Ahmad

27 April 1997

We have had four prime ministers and seven deputies. Three of the seven deputy prime ministers reached the summit - Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Premature death robbed Tun Dr. Ismail bin Datuk Abdul Rahman the premiership he much deserved. Tan Sri Musa Hitam resigned while Tun Ghaffar capitulated. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is still in office. Anwar has leapfrogged everyone in UMNO in terms of position and potential.

A visiting Malaysian businessman who has good reason to be happy said to me last week that many Malaysians and Americans want to be on Anwar's side. Another guest, also a Malaysian, who obviously not amused cautioned: "There are a lot of things that can happen in politics. There's a lot of traps out in Jalan Dato Onn and at Menara Dato Onn, even overseas."

I listened intently. The third man, an Islamist who is ever fond of life, declared categorically: "I am batting for Anwar; it's just a matter of time."

Unlike his predecessors Mahathir does not play golf. He rides when he has the time. Mahathir is the first prime minister widely identified as a Malay intellectual and radical and the first non-lawyer to move into Jalan Dato Onn.

Like his boss, Anwar, the prime minister-in-waiting, also does not trot to padang golf. He plays badminton.

I used to play passable golf in the sixties and seventies. My golfing days ended abruptly when I was compelled to go on sabbatical for five years, first at the Special Branch Holdings Centre at Jalan Semarak, then at a safehouse, (the safehouse has been demolished and replaced by a bungalow belonging to Datuk Shahril Samad, a colleague and a former minister), and finally at Kamunting, Taiping, Perak.

Friends in Kuala Lumpur as well as in New York have ask me to resume hitting and chasing the white ball. These well-meaning friends may well regret urging me to play again.

I may turn out to be a 60 year old Tiger Woods! Actually I was a poor golfer, undisciplined, uncommitted and even now I lack the flair to be a serious golfer. I have told them to keep the ball rolling. Don't wait for me.

Tiger (Eldrick) Woods, 21, became the first person of colour to win Masters, the youngest ever to take the Augusta Masters Crown. He simultaneously set various records at the prestigious tournament. The Masters tourney is one of golf's four major championships in the world.

Tiger's 72-hole score of 270, 18 under par, broke by a stroke the championship record jointly held by Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd. It was 12 shots better than that of the distant runner-up, Tom Kite, and that was a record too.

Tiger left Stanford to concentrate on golf. I believe this talented young American will win more titles, advertisement deals and fans well into the next millennium.

Wow! Like Anwar 16 years ago and before that Mahathir in the sixties, Tiger has become a pied piper. He has become the "New Master" of golf , a game which until 22 years ago did not permit blacks to join the tournaments except only as caddies.

Tiger, showing astonishing finesse and maturity, said the fact made his achievement all the more special. When pressed to comment if he encountered colour bar at Augusta, his reply was circumspect: "I did not encounter any problems except for the speedy greens."

I watched the match during the last two days with some friends, and my interest in the game was temporarily rekindled. Golf was one of the most boring things on American television until Tiger changed all that two weeks ago.