Tiger Woods: A Whole New World

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIApril 20, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Tiger Woods speaks with the media after a four-under par 68 during the first round of the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Media Manipulation. I’ve never seen such a plaque hit sports media as it has regarding Tiger Woods’ off course activities. As much as I don’t want to go down this road again, it has to be done.

Bobby Jones once wrote, “An astonishing amount of golf—that is, good golf—is played between the ears. We have to think, to concentrate on the stroke, in order to hit the ball correctly.”

Jones makes these comments in the forward of one of my favorite books on golf, “The spirit of St. Andrews,” by Alister Mackenzie.

Concentration. That’s the key ingredient. Oh sure, you need some good old fashion skill mixed in, and a whole lot of repetitive practice and a dash of luck thrown in for good measure as well.

But is it not concentration that separates the truly great golfers from the very good golfers? Golfers that can rise above the moment. Visualize themselves outside of their bodies, and figure out exactly what it is they need to do to get the job done. Tune out the crowd. Ignore the cameras. Concentrate.

The truly great ones have always had it. Bobby Jones himself. Gene Sarazen. Ben Hogan. Arnold Palmer. Jack Nicklaus. Nick Faldo. Tiger Woods. These are the golfers that have transcended the moment, risen to the occasion and did what needed to be done, time and time again.

And none more so than Tiger Woods. Woods may have the most concentration of any man that ever played a professional sport. Jordon had it. Some might say Joe Montana had it. Greg Maddux had it. Ty Cobb was said to have had it. Nicklaus had it. But none of them had it like Mr. Woods.

I think what has gotten lost in recent months regarding Tiger Woods, and commentaries about Tiger Woods, is just what has made this man the greatest golfer of his generation. Sometimes it is easy to forget (we all suffer from a short attention span in this generation) what made this man so great in the first place. A combination of incredible raw talent and a concentration level like we've never seen.

This can be easy to forget when so many “expert” commentators are coming at you from every angle (well, actually it’s the same angle, over and over) about how these things that happened in this man’s personal life have somehow made his impact on the game of golf less.

They tell us, (not once, or twice, or even three times; no, they keep telling us over and over) "Tiger cheats on his wife. Tiger swears on CBS and offends Jim Nantz. Tiger throws his club up in the air. He did, you know. There is film of it. Of course he’s not the greatest golfer of all time! See what he does? Don’t you watch TV, read the rags? Of course he isn’t the greatest golfer we’ve ever seen, because he cheats on his wife. He swears. He gets mad on the golf course. No other golfers do this."

"No, the man that should be the one we root for, should be recognized as the world’s greatest golfer (of course isn’t the world’s greatest golfer, but that doesn’t really matter), doesn’t do these kinds of things. Isn’t that a better story? Isn’t that what matters? Something soft and cuddly to wrap your arms around. Oh yeah, his wife has cancer, too. That should count for a few points, don’t you think? That should close the gap a little. So we’ll keep bringing that up too. What, that’s manipulative? Mentioning that he did it for his sick wife is manipulative? That’s a cheap shot? Oh be quiet. That doesn’t matter."

I mean, that is what they are telling us, no? By bringing it up, they are telling us who deserves to win. Who is a better story. Who is the best golfer. Doesn’t matter what the facts say, no. That doesn’t matter anymore. This has entered a whole new dimension in commentary. No longer does it matter who is the best, no. They’re going to tell us who is the best and if we don’t like it well we better damn well get used to it. Because you know what, they’re not going stop telling us. Ever. This much is true.

They’re going to keep bringing up crashed cars, HGH useage, mistresses galore, swearing (he said “Damn it, Tiger” and “Jesus Christ” on national TV. I heard it!), and flung clubs until your ears are bleeding with it, and then you know what they’re going to do? You guessed it, they’re going to tell us some more. They are going to shove Phil Mickelson down our throats until we gag on him. They are going to take every feel good story that happens in golf and say “See, a good guy won. What a feel good story. This win makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.”

And the funniest thing (no ha ha funny here) they are going to do is to claim that Tiger Woods’ off course shenanigans are actually bringing down the game. Yes, that is what they do. They will keep telling us how a crashed car and mistresses galore keep ruining golf. Here’s the funny part: they are the only ones bringing it up. Tiger didn’t show up at The Masters talking about his mistresses or his sex rehab or his crashed SUV. Phil Mickelson didn’t show up at The Masters talking about his sick wife or his distaste for what Tiger has done. David Toms didn’t show up at the Masters telling us how sickened he was that Tiger swears sometimes.

No, the only people who bring it up are the people complaining that it won’t go away. If that isn’t a Catch 22 I don’t know what in the heck is. Of course, the reason they are bringing it up is for a different kettle of fish altogether. You see, they have an agenda.

They see an opening in the armor, a crack, their one chance to drag this man down. That is why they won’t let it go. It’s their one chance to destroy Tiger Woods. And they are getting a little scared, because they are realizing he isn’t going to go away.

But maybe, if they keep writing articles about it and talking about it on TV and radio, maybe, somehow, their master plan to make the greatest golfer the game has ever seen not the greatest golfer the game has ever seen, just might work. Maybe if they keep saying sex scandals and rehabs are bringing down golf, people will listen.

Of course, these things have nothing to do with bringing down golf or the game of golf. They have to do with Tiger Woods. Period. The only people bringing down the game of golf are the people who keep feeling compelled to connect Mr. Woods’ personal life with his golf life. They are the ones bringing scandal to golf.

And most importantly, they seem to be telling us to forget the facts. They don’t matter. They used to matter, but they don’t anymore. The playing field has changed, and they’re the ones that have changed it, and by golly they’re damn proud of it. Maybe, if they keep bringing up a crashed SUV they can even change history. Maybe, like they do in college sports, they can have Tiger’s majors taken away from him. Hhmm, how many majors would that give Mickelson? Give him a few more, I bet.

The facts. How about we take a quick peek at the facts. Just for fun. Because remember, facts used to matter. They don’t anymore of course, but they used to. So, for old times’ sake, here’s a quick peek. I picked who I felt were the top four golfers over the last 20 years.

Ernie Els and Vijay Singh both turned pro in 1989 (although Singh didn’t join the PGA tour until 1993). Mickelson turned pro in 1992 and Woods in 1996.

PGA Tour Victories: Els 18, Singh 34, Mickelson 38, Woods 71.

Overall Pro Wins: Els 62, Singh 58, Mickelson 46, Woods 97.

Major Victories: Els 3, Singh 3, Mickelson 4, Woods 14.

Top Tens at Majors:  Els 29 of 70, Singh 19 of 72, Mickelson 28 of 71, Woods 30 out of 57.

PGA Player of the Year: Els 0 (although 3 times European Player of the Year), Singh 1, Mickelson 0, Woods 10.

These are the facts. The cold hard facts. I decided to leave out stats on swearing, club tossing, trees hit with SUV’s and infidelities. For some reason, try as hard as I could, I just couldn’t get myself to consider them as golf stats.

Of course, they are now golf stats. Because the rules have changed. So, in fairness, I think we should mic every player and every shot for the swearing and club throwing stats. I mean, how do we know "Golfer A” is swearing more than "Golfer Y” if "Golfer Y” isn’t be filmed or recorded? Kind of seems unfair, no? And as far as the trees run into and infidelity stats well, I’m at a loss there. Maybe TMZ could help us out? Or the National Inquirer?

I wonder what Bobby Jones would think now if he knew that concentration no longer matters. Who the best golfer is no longer matters. Now what matters is public perception. The will of the many. I truly wonder what he would think if he knew what has become important in the world of golf. I wonder what he would think of media manipulation.

It no longer matters who the best golfer is, or what amazing things that golfer has done over the last 13 years. What matters is how dedicated you are to your family, or if you’re a good driver while on pain pills. Granted, it is an admirable thing to be dedicated to one’s family, but I never really tuned in to golf before to see the best family guy out there. I tuned in to see the greatest golfers in the world battle it out. And you know what, they are trying to do just that, but some people just can’t let go.

Kind of a sad new world. Reminds me of one of the books I sometimes read to my daughter at bedtime. "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst. Alexander’s solution to his problems is to move to Australia. Of course, in the end, his Mom tells him they have problems in Australia, too.

So, I guess I’ll stay here, like Alexander did. Some of us need to try and keep this thing balanced anyway.