Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Tiger Tale We'll Never Hear

Tiger Woods is only two strokes behind the leaders with two rounds to play at The Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga.

Golf’s player of the decade, in more ways than one, is just 36 holes from winning his 15th major title, which would leave him three shy of the all-time leader, Jack Nicklaus.

But it is worth remembering that the last time Tiger was in this enviable position, he imploded.

Last August, he led the PGA Championships by four strokes heading into the third round. Yet he played cautiously, sluggishly, and, by his lofty standards, sloppily, allowing anyone in the field to climb back into the tournament.

The only one to take Tiger up on the challenge was Y.E. Yang, a wiry South Korean known only to golf fanatics in his own country.

Yang moved into second place, two shots behind Tiger going into the final round, and was paired with the world’s No. 1 golfer on Sunday.

As we now know, Yang became the only golfer to overtake Tiger on the final day of a major, shooting a 2-under-par 70 to Tiger’s 3-over-par 75 to win the PGA title by three strokes.

In light of what we now know about Tiger’s serial philandering prior to Thanksgiving weekend 2009, it is entirely likely his energy at the PGA tournament had been sapped by a series of sexual threesomes, or intense one-on-one rendezvous with a woman not named Elin Woods.

No wonder Tiger blew the PGA. It’s a wonder that didn’t happen more often. It’s stunning that all the cheating and lying had not caused his majestic golf game to collapse sooner.

We don’t really know Tiger Woods, no matter how often we see him, with or without a club in his hand and that TW cap covering his receding hairline.

But it’s a safe bit that he’ll never tell us whether sexual recklessness was a factor in his meltdown at last year’s PGA. It’s also safe to wager that whatever woman or women he may have spent illicit time with during that tournament received a princely sum to remain silent.

I still root for Tiger to win tournaments, especially majors. I want Tiger to break Nicklaus’s record. It is because of Tiger that I started watching golf—during his victorious run as a 21-year-old at the 1997 Masters.

I root even harder for Tiger the man to live an honest life, mentally and spiritually. I root for him to be a better human being. Whether his marriage survives or not, I root for him to be a better father to his two children.

As much as I would love to know what happened to him at last year’s PGA, I’m sure Tiger will never tell that tale. So the fan in me hopes he seizes this golden opportunity and wins Masters title No. 5.

Better to see Tiger Woods morph from the world’s No. 1 punch line back into the world’s greatest golfer.