Tiger Woods will be remembered for what could have been.
Some will interpret that to be a comment on Woods’s failure to “catch Jack.” For nearly twenty years, the hucksters in the golf world pushed that idea that Woods would surpass Jack Nicklaus’s mark of 18 majors, thereby establishing Woods as the “Greatest of All Time.” Woods, whose career we now know was very much front-loaded, was treated as if he had already passed Jack. As a result of the way the media — and Woods himself — framed Woods and his “historic chase of Jack Nicklaus,” Woods has wound up with the greatest, and most lucrative, sports career ever… to be considered an absolute failure. Woods isn’t Secretatiat; he’s every horse who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to falter at Belmont. The difference between Woods and those horses is that the sports media crowned Woods the Triple Crown winner — when Woods is finished, Secretariat will be a footnote — before the Belmont was run.
However, that is not what I am writing about today. Woods’s image may have been able to withstand the “chasing Jack” and “greater then Nicklaus” hype had he not been such a smug, rude, unfeeling human being. You know the saying: Be nice to people on your way up, because you are going to see the same people on your way down. Woods always considered himself above “nice,” and as a result, people relish kicking him on his way down.
It did not have to be that way. That’s the “what could have been” I am writing about today.
Consider: the constant cursing; the over-the-top on-course celebrations; the aversion to self-effacing modesty. Those were all observable things. The media — Woods’s prime enabler — ignored them, or worse, painted them as assets. They show his single-mindedness and intensity. That seems silly in retrospect, but that was the media’s accepted narrative.
Add to those the things we now know: a disturbing misogyny; damning links to Dr. Anthony Galea and others in the world of PEDs; a false image created by Nike and IMG.
Woods has referred to himself as a role model and stated that he took that responsibility seriously. Really? Where? On the course? Off the course?
Most troubling of all is how Woods knew the truth the entire time and yet went along pushing a false image, and how the media went along — sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly — with the ruse.
Let’s now address something that could have been put in both categories above, the Rock Ishii-engineered distance and accuracy golf ball (see here and here) Woods alone had in 2000: This ball advantage was observable — to knowledgeable observers of golf — but has only recently become a “we now know” item for the general public. When it comes to the mainstream golf media, we have to wonder, “What did they know, and when did they know it?” And, why, once they knew, did they not make a point of educating the public.
Here’s a link to a Sports Illustrated article written in the wake of Tiger Woods’s “dominating” victory at the 2000 British Open. It is typical of the media coverage in that era. It is cringe-inducing to read now, knowing what we now know. Read these passages knowing that Woods was using a ball that gave him a distance and accuracy advantage over his opponents:
Price finally produced a flame and sparked a cigarette. “Tiger cut a three-wood off the tee at 17 today, and I smoked a driver,” he said, exhaling. “He was a yard past me.”
Well, hell, I wonder why!!!
Woods, almost embarrassingly, played 72 holes on a course with 112 bunkers and never soiled his trouser cuffs.
Gee, I wonder why he was able to drive it past the bunkered landing areas.
Here’s a description from Golf Channel:
He did not hit into a single trap over 72 holes, using sheer power to fly the ball beyond the punishing pot bunkers that serve as the best defense on the Old Course.
That was written in 2005 about Woods’s 2000 play. By that time, Golf Channel was well aware Woods had used the Rock Ishii golf ball which gave him a nearly ten-yard advantage off the tee. They wrote nothing of that, attributing the distance to “sheer power.”
For interesting revelation about Woods’s character, read these two bits from the article:
When Nicklaus putted out on 18 on Friday, ending what is presumed to have been his final round ever at the British, Woods happened to be 50 yards away, near the 1st tee, practicing his putting in advance of his own round. He didn’t applaud Nicklaus, and scarcely even looked at him.
Woods may have learned too well from Nicklaus, whose records were taped to the headboard of Tiger’s bed even at age 10. Of his list of achievements, Woods actually said on Sunday night, “I thought I’d be at this point faster than it took,” which is to say sooner.
What graciousness! Of course, the media would soon turn such episodes of classlessness into evidence of his greatness and intensity. His anti-social behavior would soon be presented as “making golf cool.”
What’s key here, as you read this 15-year-old article, is to recognize that Woods knew he had a ball that allowed him to add nearly ten yards to his drives while maintaining the same accuracy. So here is Woods, who just won his second straight major using a ball no one else had, jawboning that he expected to have won his first four majors sooner than he did.
All you can do is laugh. Here’s a guy who KNOWS his U.S. Open and British Open wins are tainted, but he can’t help glorifying himself, saying that winning four majors so quickly was actually a disappointment to him!
Maybe the media didn’t know at the time. They probably didn’t. But they would within a year or two. That they never went back and wrote an article similar to this one I’m writing today is inexcusable.
The result of all this is that Woods’s career now has a stench to it that cannot be washed off. And so does the image of the golf media. The golfing public is tired of being lied to, tired of being deceived, tired of being expected to go along with the Tiger Woods flim-flam.
Let the legend shrivel.