Tiger Woods triumph may help clean off the stain of Trumps golf addiction | Richard Williams

The presidents very public obsession with golf represents everything that makes a good game easy to dislike. But then, on Sunday, came a miracle

Grotesque, malevolent and a cheat at golf: does Auric Goldfinger remind you of anyone? And theres the obsession with gold. Goldfingers Rolls-Royce is panelled in solid gold and he kills a woman by having her covered with gold paint. Donald Trumps use of gold is a little less original, more symbolic than functional: its the colour, for instance, of Trump Tower in Las Vegas, gleaming like a huge gold brick standing on its end above the neon-lit Strip.

But its the cheating at golf that concerns us here. One of the most beguiling of Bond villains, Goldfinger is first encountered rigging a game of two-handed canasta by the pool at a Miami hotel. When he next encounters 007, it is at Royal St Marks on the Kent coast, a thinly disguised Royal St Georges. They agree to play a round for money: double or quits for the $10,000 Bond took off Goldfinger in Florida.

The original version, in Ian Flemings book, is a gripping shot-by-shot account of a game during which Bond observes his adversarys various underhand ploys. Goldfinger lets his shadow fall across his opponents teed-up ball and jiggles coins in his pocket just as Bond is about to play. He jumps up in a bunker, ostensibly to get a better view over the lip but actually to improve his lie in the sand. And when his ball is lost in the deep rough, he bribes his caddy to drop another one in a better position. Fleming knew golf well, and although he was writing 60 years ago, when players would pull a spoon or a niblick out of their bag rather than a fairway wood or a nine-iron, there is nothing dated about Bonds cleverly planned revenge.

In the 1964 film, Goldfinger is played by Gert Frbe, a wide-bodied German actor who as well as getting the best line in any Bond film (No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!) conveys a familiar combination of vast entitlement and vindictive paranoia. Watching it the other night, in the middle of reading a book called Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, it was possible to imagine that repeated viewings of the film at an impressionable age inspired his approach to life as well as golf. If golf explains Trump, then so does Goldfinger.

Goldfinger and James Bond exchange words on the links. Photograph: Danjaq/Eon/Ua/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The author of the new book is Rick Reilly, a former Sports Illustrated columnist justly celebrated for his wit. He first met Trump 30 years ago, in the days when the ambitious young developer liked being photographed with celebrities at Studio 54. Reilly was writing a book about caddying for famous people, and Trump readily accepted an invitation to be one of his subjects. The way it worked out, Reilly ended up not carrying Trumps bag but playing against him. His opponents curious approach to the rules got him interested in Trumps behaviour, and his book is a veritable encyclopedia of improved lies, phantom chip-ins, balls mystifyingly found in unlikely landing spots, and other gross but unpenalised offences against the games ethics. Its horrible, of course, but you can only laugh as when you learn that at all his golf resorts Trump keeps his own personalised buggy, each of them turbocharged to allow him to whizz up the fairways, getting ahead of his opponents slower vehicles so that they cant see what hes getting up to with his ball and sometimes with theirs, which they might discover in a surprisingly unfavourable location.

When Reilly forensically debunks Trumps frequent claim to have won 18 club championships, he connects the falsehood to a pattern of behaviour. Tell em youre 6ft 3in when youre actually six-one. Tell em something that cost $20m cost $50m. Tell em that a 58-storey highrise has 68 floors (with nothing at all between the 20th, where the business levels end, and what youll call the 30th, where the apartments start). Tell em that a column of economic migrants heading for the US border contains terrorists and drug dealers.

And he has one story that sums up the whole phenomenon. The first time they played a round together, Trump introduced Reilly to several acquaintances. Except he was not introduced as a columnist for Sports Illustrated. It was as the president of Sports Illustrated or the publisher of Sports Illustrated. Eventually Reilly asked him why he was doing this. Sounds better, Trump replied. For anyone compiling a list of Things That Explain Everything, Donald Trumps Sounds better should be pretty close to the top.

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The presidents very public addiction to golf represents everything that makes a very good game easy to dislike, while coinciding with a troubling downturn in its popularity. But then, on Sunday, came a miracle. For anyone who watched the final round of the Masters, it will be impossible to forget the face of unremitting concentration that Tiger Woods brought to the back nine. Where this used to be a mask, now it was the look of a man who had glimpsed redemption and was not going to let anything, least of all his own ego, spoil his chance of grasping it. On an individual level, it was extremely moving. Four bogeys in the round kept his achievement on a human scale, his acceptance of it was humble, and his celebration seemed like a genuine release of emotion. For the game as a whole, it was a blast of cleansing fluid that removed all sorts of stains. And if anyone writes a better golf book this year than Rick Reillys Commander in Cheat, it will probably be titled How Tiger Saved Golf from Trump.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/apr/15/tiger-woods-masters-donald-trump-golf-golfinger

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