If you can get past the circus and past the character defects, if you can get past Tiger Woods’ bizarre obsession with the Navy SEALs, and that three of his alleged former mistresses (porn stars) are releasing a movie Tuesday (“Notorious Tales of the World’s Greatest Golfer,” and we’re just assuming it’s not about No. 1-ranked Luke Donald), and that his former swing coach is pimping a book, here’s one undeniable truth: Woods is gold — for the PGA Tour, for the sports world, for us.
Other golfers tire of answering questions about him, but they know who moves the meter. They know who sells tickets and sponsorships and ultimately brings more money and attention to the sport, and therefore them.
Fans may be divided on him – some still clinging to the being (not human) who won 14 majors and 71 Tour events in 14 years, others refusing to let go of the being (less than human?) who burned bridges with his arrogance, rudeness, infidelities and Nike-packaged phoniness.
But Woods’ win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week should be considered welcome news, even for those who want him to do a royal face plant this week at the Masters.
He makes things interesting. He makes you watch. He creates drama. He ignites galleries.
He makes everybody ask two questions: 1) Who’s leading? 2) Where’s Tiger?
Nobody else does that.
Golf purists may not care and probably prefer otherwise: But Woods, as one of those few stars who transcends his sport, will bring eyes to the TV this week from those who otherwise find golf kind of boring.
“Say what you want — good, bad or indifferent — you’re writing about him because he’s the greatest golfer in the world,” said Billy Andrade, the long-time Atlanta pro and now analyst for the Golf Channel. “Any time he shows up, he’s Elvis. He’s a rock star. I remember taking him around for a practice round when he was 16 at the Honda Classic, and he was that way back then. He’s a game-changer.”
We’ll learn this week about the significance of Woods’ first win in over two years. We’ll see if he can drive straight and avoid three-putts and meltdowns, like those we witnessed at the Atlanta Athletic Club in August, when he failed to make the cut of the PGA Championship (77-73-Hartsfield).
We’ll see how the kid who no longer is a kid (36) can get around for four days at Augusta National after four knee surgeries and with a tender Achilles.
If Woods succeeds, the thought of catching Jack Nicklaus in career majors wins (he’s four behind) is within reach. It’s a storyline, better than some of the others we’ve witnessed.
Two years ago, it was the TMZ Masters, with stories lingering from Woods’ split with his wife, the one-car/one-tree collision, stories of porn stars and affairs and a plane pulling banners over hallowed Augusta National.
Joslyn James, one of his alleged exes, picked Masters week to display her store-bought wares at the Pink Pony. (She briefly wore a green jacket that week. He didn’t.)
This year, it’s Hank Haney, Woods’ former swing coach of six years, who’s dancing on stage with his book, “The Big Miss.” It was perfectly timed for release last week.
The book has a few interesting insights. But that doesn’t make Haney any better than James. Both are looking to profit. The only difference between the two is breast size.
Haney writes that Tiger is cheap. He writes that Tiger ate his dinner fast, left the table before he was finished and wouldn’t get him a Popsicle out of the freezer. Move over, Michener.
Haney waxes on about Woods’ fascination with the SEALs, suggesting that became more important to him than golf or the pursuit of majors. He contends Woods’ well-chronicled knee problems can be traced to several days of training (including parachute jumps) with military personnel. He writes Woods even went on long jogs in army boots around the posh golf resort of Isleworth.
Probably petrified the poor ducks.
Haney sent Woods an email: “Focus on your destiny, and that isn’t flushing bad guys out of buildings in Iraq. Just play the video games some more.”
OK. That’s funny.
“I think for Tiger it was more the challenge of thinking, ‘I can do this,’” Andrade said of Woods’ SEALs fascination. “But come on — we’re golfers, not triathletes. Stop training like Mr. Universe. All you have to do is get that little ball in the hole — and the little ball has no idea if you lifted weights or ran five miles.”
The story has changed, even somewhat mutated. But Tiger Woods is still the story.
By Jeff Schultz