Is anyone else sick of Tiger Woods? Admittedly, he’s the most successful golfer in the world, and likely will be until the day he decides to hang up his clubs. Notice I didn’t say “the best golfer in the world.” I’ll get back to that point later. Anyone tried to watch The Masters, or should I say, The Tiger Woods Memorial Comeback Tournament? If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have realized that there actually were other golfers playing in this thing. We’re constantly inundated with cut-aways to Tiger’s most recent shots, replayed over and over and over again, commentators trying to assess every little twitch and curl of his face and what that means for the future of the sport. Quite frankly, it’s sickening. Last I checked, some guy named Lee Westwood was actually winning this tournament at the moment. And in second place, there’s this little known guy named Phil Mickelson. All he’s done is win three majors himself, including two Masters. But I can count the number of times I’ve seen a cut-away to one of his shots on one hand. One hand with no fingers.
Look, I understand that Tiger is this larger-than-life personality. I understand that the entire planet has been saturated in his recently exposed transgressions. I understand that it’s always a big deal when Tiger is in contention at a tournament, especially a major, but this is way over the top. First off, let’s drop all of this comeback nonsense. Tiger’s last tournament was five months ago. Five months is a typical off-season in virtually every major sport. It’s not like he was dramatically injured, or hadn’t played in years. He’s an athlete in his prime who took some time off due to self-inflicted injuries to his image, the most painful of which have been to his bottom line. Sure, the press has been all over him during those months, but this isn’t a comeback in any sort of meaningful sense. Unless, that is, you’re one of the bunches of large corporate entities (Augusta National, ESPN, Nike, etc.) who has millions of dollars tied up in his exploits, on and off the golf course.
Back to Tiger being the best in the world, statistically, he is that. He wins much more than anyone, and he’s seemingly always in contention. Any time Tiger misses a cut in a tournament, it’s a major shock, although most golfers have that happen somewhat routinely. But still, as good as he is, I honestly don’t believe that he’s that much better than the before-mentioned Mickelson or any of a dozen other high-level golfers. What Tiger does have that most all of his competitors lack is the commitment to be the best, the single-minded drive that keeps him consistently on his game. Golf is a somewhat lackadaisical sport. The pace is sometimes agonizingly slow, players gracefully stroll from shot to shot. Certainly, it takes an immense level of concentration and attention to detail to play championship-level golf. Most golfers are only able to muster that competitiveness on few select occasions. Tiger, to his credit, brings it every round. That’s what makes him the most successful golfer, not a level of skill or talent abundantly in excess of his peers.
But that drive is also what causes his little outbursts and temper-tantrums. Every time Tiger showed a little of that fire this weekend, someone always chimed in about him needing to change his ways, controlling his emotions. Well, one comes with the other, folks. How happy do you think ESPN, Nike or any of the plethora of other sponsors and media outlets that make boatloads of money covering his every hand gesture would be if he does, indeed, control his emotions, and becomes just another really good golfer, maybe winning two or three tournaments a year, possibly a major every three years or so? Tiger is what he is; a supremely driven competitor who likes to blow off steam with whatever ladies he could find. Was Michael Jordan any different? Would the NBA have wanted MJ to “control his emotions” on the court and settle for anything less than being the best player in the league, the one holding up the MVP trophy and the NBA Title year after year? Of course not. Control the gambling, maybe, but that’s another story.
Most of the criticisms I’ve heard about Tiger’s behavior have been along the lines of hypocritical moralizing, “He needs to be true to his family.” You mean the “family” that’s a marketing sham? The one designed and carefully crafted to sell more Escalades? How realistic is a marriage in which the wife is forced to sign a contract actually requiring her to be “a dutiful wife”? Sure sounds like the fairy tale, true love to me.
None of this coverage has anything to do with Tiger, the human being. It’s all smoke and bluster, both from the press hounding the man’s every sexual exploit and from his own handlers and their one-sided, hand-crafted attrition of a press conference, and the Nike commercial that, rather disgustingly, used his dead father’s words to help repair the image that sells more golf shoes, shirts, hats and clubs. Certainly, Tiger is largely complicit in a lot of this. He strikes me as being an arrogant ass, with little in the way of social graces and respect for anyone that doesn’t immediately service his needs, however base they may be. But so was Michael Jordan, and that didn’t stop me from reveling in his every amazing move on the basketball court, or cheer for his every championship moment.
Tiger is just a man; a deeply flawed man with but one thing that makes him special: a drive to be the best. Forcing him to temper that drive just because its side affects make it more difficult for the corporate parasites leeching cash out of his wake are uncomfortable with them is wrong. Just let the man play golf. And show somebody else once in a while. In that too much to ask?