Tiger's Place In Golf History Could Give Him Some Bad Dreams

h lewisContributor IMarch 4, 2010

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12:  Fans dressed as Michael Jackson show off a placard during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

I don't know that this makes any sense, but for the past week or so I've been trying to pick up a vibe on how much trouble Tiger Woods is really in. When I look at his problem it's from what I imagine to be the place where Tiger must go in order to deal with the pressures and distractions on his game.

His game is important to him. He's spent 30 years building an approach to playing golf, which got him position, fame and fortune- his place in the world. He's a front runner in a game that provides an endless stream of adversity, which must be overcome to prosper. Because of that, I can't see even this grand sexual peccadillo causing him to fold up his tent and slink into the sunset of obscurity (or into a Pop culture limbo like Michael Jackson). But, then again, it's always easier to choke (than not choke) under pressure and even Tiger Woods might never get it back into the fairway from where it lays.

I didn't watch the dumbass broadcast of his latest live network tv whatever-it-was. I did see a rerun in a restaurant without sound. I was struck by the rapt attention paid by the Greek chorus of "extras" somebody had assembled for the occasion and by the fact that all these networks thought a PR stunt that newsworthy. I heard several crude remarks and sponsor suggestions all without a sniff of sympathy for the golfing zillionair. I guess it's just a cynical world.

My point is there is some perceptions about Tiger Woods and the sex dust-up which can only be classified as distractions from whatever quest he sets forth upon next. The debate on the proposition that Tiger is the greatest golfer ever and that he will go zooming past Big Jack in a matter of months after he gets his tee out of wherever it's been and back into the tee box of the Majors is going to put some pressure on the more inexperienced portion of his fan base. These fans, being less burdened with the lessons of history, are going to want Tiger to "show 'em". If Tiger can't produce his usual miracles, then I think these guys might turn their back on him pretty quickly.

I was clicking through the golf channel the other day and actually saw someone predict that Tiger would win 5 more majors in the next two years, because he would now have a clear mind without all that sex fogging up his focus.

There is a broad area of disconnect between the Golf fan who has some historical perspective and the person drawn to golf as a spectator sport by the amazing feats of Tiger Woods. It might be a age thing, it might be a hero thing, ethnocentricity or whatever. But I think that those who believe that Tiger is unquestionably the Greatest of all time are in for a bumpy ride. I'm a fan of Tiger Woods golf, but I agree with Johnny Miller that Tiger was less than "even money" to get 19 majors before this sex deal hit the fan.

If you are a sports fan and/or a golf fan you may not even be aware of the level of pure disrespect outside of the golf world that Woods is going to have to endure in order to play championship golf again - Stuff is so weird that anything could happen. A pure focus has been Tiger's defining golf strength, and all this turbulence is going to have some effect on his ability to focus on putts and stuff.

You might have seen where Tiger's caddy - Steve Williams - had commented (in USA Today) that he wasn't going to allow any heckling of the great man. This brought Thousands of "oh yeah?" type comments from the readers who, I thought, mainly took umbrage at the thought of a guy from New Zealand telling Americans about free speech. Tiger certainly had his defenders (who may or may not be willing to fight for their idol), but my guess is that as long as Tiger is allowed to play his shots - nobody is going to get tossed from a PGA event (the Masters is not a PGA event) for saying mean stuff to or about Tiger Woods. I would hate to be pared with the Tiger in the first few months of his return. And, I think, It will be the same at every tour stop (except the Masters) - Tiger Woods sponsored by Dicks.

But, the heckling issue, though inconsistant with the decorum of the game, is still inside golf stuff - when you get outside golf and into the pop culture the fallout from this episode will have a more unpredictable impact on Tiger's psyche. Tiger Woods (or 'Cheetah' Woods) has become something of an iconic pinhead joke, like Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole, Lohan's and Spears undies. Witness Tiger's creepy audience for his 3 network apology - it's all just way too much. It is a measure of how little the PGA public relations cadre know of America's non-golfing population that they could contribute to the weirdness of it all while thinking to smooth it out (Richard Nixon?).

Check this out - all since the Woods TV thing:

Some woman in the sex industry said that Tiger's tab with her establishment was over $250,000 a year. Now that might sound like a lot of money, but....

Howard Stern - the Seiurus radio shock jock - is holding a $100,000 "Tiger's Mistress" beauty pageant (? I think - didn't read the promo too carefully)

(Bill Marr- of the tv show Politically Incorrect- from "stop saying Sex addict Like it's a bad Thing") "Now, I haven't commented on Tiger Woods much because, well, he's just a golfer and it took me this long to give a shit. But all this talk about sex addiction now - please - sex addiction is just something Dr. Drew made up because he had no other way to explain Andy Dick. And that's not just me saying that - it's also the American Psychiatric Association, which does not list sex addiction in its manual; it does not regard it as a real psychological syndrome, like delirium or bipolar disorder or any of the other things Glenn Beck suffers from."

or: After holding a roundly criticized "press" conference (no questions please)Tiger Woods then apologies to the mothers of the school his kid attends.

Can any of this be good for his game? The least that this "baggage" could be is something else to put out of his golfing consciousness. I don't think any of this is gonna help his focus.

Also, Outside the game -dealing with the bigger more tangible baggage in his life - like his family (especially kids) and losing sponsorship and being the butt of millions of jokes, Tiger has to deal with some things inside his golf world:

1- His knee (drugs, rehab, swing modifications, loss of mobility, aging),

2- dealing with (and when) the "next big thing" arrives (like maybe McIlroy),

3- the thing that I think is really going to keep him up at night - his place in the history of the game.

When you are one of the Greats and you have won some majors, and you have made enough money to live any way you choose (oops, strike that)- the challenge might be to choose (and to work toward) how you want to be remembered - not by the rabble, but by the cognizenti- by the people who get it. I think Tiger really cares what the other magicians think of his tricks.

Tiger gets it, of course- he understands the history and traditions that are the game. Like Jones had Keeler and Palmer had Bob Drum, Tiger needs somebody to help explain his greatness. But now, how will he attract the fair Witness he is gonna need to help those folks, who's opinion matters to Tiger Woods, to understand his place in the game (once, of course, he has it re-figured out himself?)

Where is he going to fit in the pantheon of American golf legends? Nelson, Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson, Hogan, Jones, Snead, Woods, Trevino, Ouimet ....

If I were his pr guy I might stage a fist fight with Bob Barker on the first tee of his return and get the conversation started about "how funny was that?" "Tiger must be ok, right?" I don't know Tiger Woods, but I don't think Tiger is really a very cool person - not cool enough to pull off this type of histrionics. But he needs something - anything to get this whole thing off the dead center of grinding stupid.

Maybe he should adopt a persona and play like Hogan- no comment, no conversation, no apologies, maybe no sponsors, and no press conferences ( just pay the fines) - and he should just play the best golf that he can muster under the circumstances - and, maybe that will be good enough. Tiger Woods- The Ice Man (2).