The Tiger Woods story has turned interesting again, which, given the attention span of news consumers, is remarkable. In fact, you could argue Woods’s story has gone on so long, has been renewed so many times, that it’s well on its way to the golden sanctum sanctorum that shelters the story of O.J.
It looks like Tiger’s story is coming up to another plot point — next week’s U.S. Open as possible personal event horizon, this week’s Memorial Tournament (fittingly Jack Nicklaus’s tournament) as lead-in.
One wonders, how are things in Tiger World? Well, it’s never good for the meanest stud on the block to realize nobody’s afraid of him anymore. To wit: things are so bad with Tiger that competitors are getting uppity. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin says Woods has to earn his spot on the team. Jack Nicklaus (18 major wins) says Tiger needs to win a major this year. Even the spineless sporting media has felt safe enough to criticize Woods for swearing on the golf course.
More ominously, Hank Haney, his swing coach, quit. Quit, not fired. Since being Tiger’s swing coach means fame, and fame means money, two items not associated with swing coaches, the fact that Haney quit indicates something else is going on. Nobody quits that job. My guess is Haney saw something coming and didn’t want to be in the same sentence as Woods when it hit.
Woods returned to human form last year at the 2009 PGA Championship, when he had a two-stroke lead going into the final round and wound up losing by three stokes to Yang Yong-eun. Tiger had never lost a major tournament when going into the final round with a lead. His first loss was to the aforementioned Young-eun, who was 37 years old, on the 2009 tour by way of qualifying school, and ranked 110 in the world. To my eyes, Woods folded, a plain vanilla choke. Woods caved under pressure, bogied the last two holes like he’d seen so many other golfers do when he was making a charge.
That was less than ten months ago. Pre-meltdown.
I thought it was stark arrogance for Tiger to mark his return at the Masters. But, he finished tied for fourth, which, after the galactic shitstorm he’s been living in, was amazing in an inhuman sort of way. Then, he missed the cut at Quail Hollow Championship and then withdrew, ten shots behind the leader, from the Players Championship.
Now he’s set to start the Memorial Tournament on Thursday and the Open one week later. Suddenly, Tiger’s got more riding on the next two weeks than one would have thought possible as the Georgia sun set on April 11.
So far he’s avoided the worst. There has been no creditable story about his nonstandard sex. No books, no video of Tiger drooling on a bar stool, no criminal charges, just stories about Tiger fucking countless women. It’s not pretty, but he’ll still be able to walk within 500 yards of an elementary school.
Reports indicate that Woods is already out $100 million due to lost sponsors, hush money, flunkies, lawyers, and lawyer-flunkies. Soon, $100 million will seem like the good old days.
Media reports say wife Elin Nordegren will file for divorce in Sweden, in California, or in New York. Apparently, she’s asking for $750 million and custody of the kids. Apparently, Tiger wants her to sign a lifetime “confidentiality clause.”
Considering the past six months, I can fairly say Woods is not a person who wilts from too much publicity. Rather, Woods is acting like a person who has done things that are worth the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to keep quiet.
Then there are steroids. Some media outlets have published Barry Bonds–like photos of Tiger Woods at the age of 18, 25, 30, and 33. The changes in his body are alarming. There is the Canadian doctor who made five home visits to Mr. Woods. Dr. Anthony Galea is charged in Canada with selling an unapproved drug, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, and is charged in the U.S. for lying to federal officials, smuggling, and unlawful distribution of HGH. Woods has not been implicated in any of this, although I should add that the trials, testimony, and plea deals are yet to come. Finally, there is his knee. People forget he’s had four left-knee operations.
Which is why the Memorial and the U.S. Open are vital. All is forgiven if he plays like Tiger. If he becomes a normal golfer — much less a poor golfer fighting to make the cut every week — he’ll get another taste of how quickly and violently the world can turn.