My Review of Shane Ryan’s Book, “Slaying The Tiger” (part 1)

If you forced me to rate this book Amazon-style, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  Shane Ryan has a crisp, readable style, and the players and subjects he addresses — that would be players and subjects other than Tiger Woods — make it a worthwhile read.  There is a long history of quality books about the PGA Tour, but ever since the golf media went All Tiger All The Time, no one has bothered to write a book about other players.  Good books about past players have been written, but nothing contemporary that wasn’t Tiger-centric.  In the eyes of golf writers, there wasn’t a PGA Tour; there was only Tiger.  With “Slaying The Tiger,” Shane Ryan has written a real golf book for real golf fans.

The book isn’t perfect.  My biggest problem — and it truly could be my problem — is Ryan’s rather ham-fisted typecasting of the players.  Had I read this book when younger, I would have simply accepted Ryan’s characterizations and moved on.  Not being young, and being familiar with most of the golfers, I couldn’t help but feel I was seeing behind Ryan’s book-writing curtain.  I sensed Ryan felt his narrative would flow more interestingly if he hung a simplistic tag on each player, and so he did.  I kept envisioning movie blurbs: Two fun-loving teens move in with their strait-laced accountant uncle.  Bubba Watson: Hypocritical Christian is rude and temperamental.  Rory McIlroy: Ruthless golf assassin mows down opponents with secret sadistic glee.  (More on that one later.)  Sergio Garcia/Jordan Spieth: Self-pity leads to self-defeat.  Such labeling deprives the author and the reader of the ambiguity surrounding all of us humans.  That said, many times Ryan went to great effort to clarify subtleties about one point or another, so one doesn’t get the impression the labeling was the result of faulty thinking, but rather a clumsy square-peg-in-round-hole book-writing strategy.  Simply put, the labels were too dogmatic and felt preachy.

By no means let that turn you away from the book, which I highly recommend.  Here, look, I’ll even give you an Amazon link.  There is a lot of great stuff: the description of Jason Day’s life prior to the tour is the best I’ve ever seen; the Victor Dubuisson story (the first chapter I read) was all new to me, and fascinating; the Patrick Reed chapter (you probably read this as an excerpt last February at TobaccoRoadBlues); the Matt Every chapter; the Masters chapters (even though Ryan’s complaints about the members and organizers seemed to me forced and insubstantial).

I was struck by one recurring theme in the book: just how little access journalists have to the players, even the ones you might think would be happy to get a little media attention.  That may have been my biggest takeaway from the book.

There were some quick and dirty anecdotes in the WGC-Bridgestone chapter; I would have preferred more of that and less psychoanalysis.  More show, less tell, to trot out the old chestnut.  (The short bit on Jason Dufner in this chapter was quite good; Ryan told the story and left the reader to form his own impressions.)

As for Tiger Woods, Ryan pretty much toes the party line: Woods is the greatest thing since sliced bread; Woods is the Pied Piper who led the 20-something players to play golf as they do.  But such eye-rolling moments are rare as the Yay Tiger remarks are fairly limited; Ryan even took a few shots at Woods — although a little between-the-lines reading was sometimes required.  More on that in part 2, where I’ll focus on specific details.

The chapters on Dubuisson and Day alone make the book worth the price of admission.  The chapters on the Masters and Augusta were a pleasure to read, too, even though I didn’t agree with much of what was written; it was fun to mull over why I thought Ryan was off-base.  One other thing: buying the book will show support for golf-writing about topics other than Tiger Woods.  Strike a blow for the improvement of the current state of golf journalism.

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16 Responses to My Review of Shane Ryan’s Book, “Slaying The Tiger” (part 1)

  1. Ken says:

    His characterization of Spieth looks kind of foolish now, but you’ve sold me a book.

    Ryan was the former “Devil Ball Golf” guy on Yahoo!, right? He was one of the worst Tiger worshipers in those days.

    • lannyh says:

      I’m not sure. There are lots of “Shanes” and “Ryans” in golf reporting: Shane Ryan; Ryan Ballengee; Shane Bacon. And there is a lot of musical chairs between jobs, too. I’m still trying to recall who was the NBC Golf guy either before or after Ballengee.

    • Ken says:

      Yahoo! should hire you to do that golf blog.

      • lannyh says:

        No way I would take a step down like that!

        Besides, my job description here is: Write about golf when and if I feel like it.

  2. Kris says:

    Jordan’s early career was very Sergio-like, and so were his losses at the Masters and the Players in 2014. Then Jordan hit a slump that lasted until the very end of the year. Based on the information Ryan had when the book was being written, it was an accurate characterization.

    Sergio said he saw a lot of himself in Jordan, and spoke to him after the Players loss. I honestly believe that Jordan will have the career that Sergio didn’t because Jordan has the proper environment to develop the mental toughness that Sergio never had.

    • lannyh says:

      I disagree that Ryan’s was an “accurate” characterization. It was one which Ryan perhaps could not rule out, but just because something is not immediately demonstratively false doesn’t make it true.

      That is at the heart of my complaints about the book. I feel his characterizations were often arbitrary: “This could be true, so I’ll go with it.”

      The portrayal I found the most confusing was that of Rory McIlroy. More on that in part 2.

    • Ken says:

      The early part of his career? He turned pro in 2013. He won in 2013 and did win the Australian Open late in 2014 (as well as that Woods OWGR points grab joke).

      I don’t think there was enough data to fairly compare Speith to Sergio. He didn’t win the Masters in his first attempt but finished second, and Ryan is making Sergio failure comparisons? I think you could fairly say that we haven’t even seen the end of Jordan’s “early career.”

    • Kris says:

      You have to take into account that Shane Ryan’s player characterizations are a snapshot of the 2014 season heavily influenced by his opinions. You also have to consider that Shane Ryan is a hack who’s been trying to make a name for himself for a long time, so taking a hard line is more likely to piss people off and get him more attention. You can’t hold against Ryan that he couldn’t see the future, because until that bogey putt dropped on 18 at the Masters, I didn’t know if Jordan had it in him, either.

      This is a decent synopsis of how Sergio and Jordan’s early careers were similar. Sergio also turned pro at 19 after a successful amateur career.

      I have been a Sergio fan for a while. I was drawn to Jordan in part because I saw the similarities between him and Sergio. Jordan is Sergio if Sergio was successful after Medinah in 1999. Jordan is successful because he’s smarter and a more well adjusted than Sergio, and he doesn’t have to worry about the unrelenting sociopath that is Tiger Woods.

  3. DanishDude says:

    Well, he actually concluded the comparison with Garcia with this:

    “Unlike Sergio, it never felt like Spieth was doomed to repeat the mistakes across the decades.”

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am on record as having noted that the author’s choice of a title was grossly inaccurate inasmuch as TW is no longer who any of these great young guns are chasing. The reason is that he is “toast” and will never return to his former form.

  5. Chef Bob Riccioli says:

    I am on record as having noted that the author’s choice of a title was grossly inaccurate inasmuch as TW is no longer who any of these great young guns are chasing. The reason is that he is “toast” and will never return to his former form.

  6. Josey says:

    Far and away the best quote from Ryan’s book came from Matt Every…”Fuck Geoff Shackelford”…Shack went on a hater rant attack against FOX Sports for the ages…he just can’t control his hatred for: 1. FOX Sports 2. Greg Norman 3. Mike Davis 4. RT Jones …check out his blog…he went waaay to far and exposed his extreme views.

  7. Jason says:

    Sounds like an interesting read. I will have to buy a copy one of these days. I can definitely get behind golf writers who are trying to talk about players other than TW, but the title, “Slaying the Tiger”, makes me thin Ryan is trying to capture some “click bait” like marketing influence.

    That’s fine though, as long as the content actually talks about other golfers in depth, I am sure it will be worth the $11.84.

    Good review, Lanny!

  8. Pingback: Part 2: Book Review, Shane Ryan’s “Slaying The Tiger” | Lanny H Golf

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