Martin Dempster: Golf needs Tiger and Rory to provide buzz

Tiger Woods enjoyed continuing his comeback with a gritty display in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Picture: Gregory Bull/AP
Tiger Woods enjoyed continuing his comeback with a gritty display in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Picture: Gregory Bull/AP
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It was only natural when a colleague in the media 
centre at Emirates Golf Club let out a shout of excitement as Haotong Li holed a birdie putt from off the green at the 15th hole in the final round on his way to winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

The 22-year-old, after all, is an exciting prospect, played really well in the final two rounds in particular and is sure to generate lots of interest in golf back home in China as his career continues to develop.

What a pity, though, that Rory McIlroy didn’t get the victory his performance deserved in that event. Although, in truth, it was his own sloppiness on the back nine on Sunday that led to lots of great work earlier in the event going to waste in the end.

Make no mistake, McIlroy will be back in the winner’s circle before too long, having looked very impressive indeed in posting a cumulative 40-under-par aggregate in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and his next test is another tasty one.

Among those joining the Ulsterman in the Genesis Open in Los Angeles in a fortnight’s time will 
be Tiger Woods and he, too, will be relishing that event on the back of his performance in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Okay, hitting just 17 fairways out of 54 – the worst in his career and three fewer than his previous worst showing at the 2004 Tour Championship – is something that clearly needs to be worked on, but there were also positives for him to take away from Torrey Pines.

Carding four rounds at par or better, for instance, in an official PGA Tour event for just the third time since his last win – the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – and also showing those legendary grinding
qualities to make the cut before going on to tie for 23rd.

Yes, emerging talents like Li are important for the game, but it’s Rory and Tiger who still create that buzz golf needs to generate real excitement in the sport.