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Rub of the Green

March 27, 2010

RUB OF THE GREEN: Can Tiger Woods successfully make over his me-first image?

TERRE HAUTE — “Pain, despair and agony on me” are the words of a comical song made popular on an old TV program titled “Hee-Haw.” The refrain might have been heard again if you had occasion to drive by the Tiger Woods residence in the gated community of Isleworth, Fla., as the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday wound down, but this time no one was laughing.

The trio providing the music might have included Tiger himself, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, and the International Management Groups’ Mark Steinberg, who is Tiger’s agent. Their respective interests in what was taking place that evening was money, truckloads of money.

Only the participants really know what took place at Elin and Tiger Woods’ residence that fateful night, but it is “alleged” that Tiger came running out of their house around 11:30 p.m. minus his shoes after Elin had discovered proof of his infidelity. Brandishing a nine iron, Elin allegedly managed to take a couple of swings at Tiger’s head as he tried to make a hasty retreat as he jumped into his Escalade and barreled down the driveway only to hit a tree and a fire hydrant. Elin also managed to put a couple of holes in two of the windows of the Escalade.

As speculation concerning Tiger’s hijinks continued, his gal pals began showing up like mice at a cheese factory during open house.

“People” magazine reported that an ex-porn star, Joslyn James, alleged in an article for “Inside Edition,” that she had been involved with Tiger. A dozen or more females have made themselves known by coming out with “Tiger Tales.”

Someone in the Tiger camp apparently came up with the idea that Tiger needed to attend therapy classes for his sex addiction. Meanwhile, some of his sponsors were deserting him, most notably, “Accenture” which at that time was sponsoring the World Match Play Championships.

A “sort of” press conference featuring an apology by Tiger was announced to be attended by invitees only with no questions asked. Golf Writers Association of America was allowed just three tickets, which they refused. The “apology” turned out to be a choreographed affair with Tiger offering his deep apologies at the meeting, which ended resembling a funeral more than anything else. Noticeably missing was Tiger’s wife. Most other celebrities have their wives with them when striving to atone for past misdeeds. The media was not impressed regarding the sincerity of the “apology.”

All the while tabloids, e-mails, newspapers, magazines and late night TV hosts were having field days at Tiger’s expense. Woods, an extremely private individual, had to be mortified by what was transpiring.

Meanwhile, Tiger was doing things his way. He had announced earlier that he would return to golf but he wouldn’t say when that would occur.

A sure bet would have been putting your bottom dollar on him being back in action by the time the 2010 Masters rolled around on April 8. That would assure him a gallery that would be more respectful, understanding and forgiving. It also would offer the opportunity to add to his total of 14 major titles, the wins he most covets, as he chases Jack Nicklaus’ record, which stands at 18.

Just who is Tiger Woods anyway? How has he captured the imaginations of hordes of fans, many of whom have never played the game of golf?

Actually, Tiger is the product of his late father, Earl Woods, who carefully molded his son into a golfing machine at an early age. Tiger began hitting golf balls at the age of two. After winning three U S. Amateurs, he was heralded as a future star who would shine brighter than any golfer in the history of the game. In an early Nike advertisement Woods stated, “Hello world”, and he was destined to become the second billion dollar athlete, ranking only behind Michael Jordan.

Perhaps no one knows Tiger Woods better than John Feinstein who wrote a book titled “The First Coming, Tiger Woods Master or Martyr.” Feinstein offers a revealing look at Woods, and it depicts him as a consummate “I’m Tiger Woods and you’re not” personality who has been surrounded by “yes” men and “enablers” for nearly his entire life.

After winning a tournament early in his career, Woods declared to the press, “I beat them all with my ‘C’ game.” His competition didn’t object to that type of hyperbole. After all, he was bringing untold riches to the PGA Tour and making millionaires out of players who seldom ever won tournaments.

When he was asked by fellow pros to sign golf balls for a children’s charity, he replied, “I don’t sign golf balls.” Woods has also disdained signing autographs, which puts him about one million signatures behind Arnold Palmer.

According to Feinstein, Tiger in real life is a different person than the golfer put forth by the image conscious representatives at IMG. The real Tiger Woods rarely speaks to his amateur partners during pro ams, or to kids carrying the scoreboards.

This writer watched Tiger and his entourage a few years ago at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio during Nicklaus’ tourney, which could be dubbed the “Masters of the North”. A youngster seeking an autograph from Tiger was trying to keep up with the group when he tripped and fell on his face on a blacktopped road. As he struggled to get up, Tiger and his crew moved on. After all, Tiger Woods was headed to the practice range. Of course, Tiger is blessed with a 10,000-watt smile, which Feinstein says, is turned on only when someone important is in attendance.

Early in his professional career, Tiger ordered his caddy and his security people to close the players’ locker room to the media during the Disney Tourney several years ago. A PGA official intervened and said, “The locker room has been open on this tour for Palmer, for Nicklaus, for Watson and everyone else. It’s open for Tiger Woods too. He’s not the fifth Beatle.”

Whenever asked about Feinstein’s allegations, Tiger had a stock reply.

“I’ve never talked to John Feinstein.” That may have been true but it didn’t answer any questions that had been raised.

Tiger’s father, Earl, went further according to Feinstein. He avowed that Tiger would not be the most important athlete or the most important golfer, but the most important human on the face of the earth. Earl explained: “because he’s playing an international sport; because of his ethnicity; because he is the chosen one.” Earl went on to declare that [Earl] had been “selected by God to nurture this more than mortal creature.”

All in all, that’s quite a resume for anyone to aspire to. Earl Woods has been deceased for several years. Tiger is in the midst of an ever-burgeoning sex scandal that threatens his popularity and his wealth, not to mention his privacy, which by the way is the name of his multi-million dollar yacht.

It seems to this writer that Tiger always has been much too full of himself. His fist shaking, and prancing manner has always seemed to be too much theater for a golfer.

Can Tiger Woods do an image makeover? He has already started down that road by granting five-minute interviews with both The Golf Channel and ESPN. Questions were allowed and briefly answered, unlike his previous “apology telecast.”

This time Tiger admitted, “A lot of ugly things have happened. I’ve done some pretty bad things in my life.” Woods added “Public ridicule has caused me shame, it was hurtful, but then you know what? I did it!” Although the interview lasted just five minutes, a more human side of the Tiger seemed to emerge.

Now Arnold Palmer, one of the most idolized golfers of all time, has weighed in regarding Tiger’s dilemma. Arnie suggested that Woods could be more forthcoming with reporters. Palmer added, “It’s up to him to do and say whatever he feels he needs to do to redeem the situation. Arnie explained further, “I suppose the best thing he could do would be open up and let you guys shoot at him. That’s just my thought.”

Can Tiger Woods survive the awful mess he has made for himself? Will he win his wife back? Will he quickly regain the form that has allowed him to master The Masters and add his 15th major championship to his list of achievements? Stay tuned for professional golf’s version of the soap opera of the century.

• • •

Chad Collins from Cloverdale continues to play some superior golf on the PGA Tour. He’s heading for the half-million dollar mark in winnings, and he has missed just one cut. A tip of the hat to Chad and best wishes as the 2010 season progresses.

• • •

In the “Wanna Bet Department,” some of the golfers at The Landing have expressed their ideas regarding the upcoming Masters. Those who think another win is in store for Woods include Tom Creasey, Dayton Huebner and Matt Norris. Paul Verostko, son of Terre Haute golf legend Gene Verostko, also picks Woods as do Dick Wyles and Dan Sanft, who thinks Tiger will win with a five-shot cushion and Jack Myers. Myers indicated that he’s not a big fan of Tiger’s, but you can’t discount his talent. Ezra Evans believes Tiger will finish seven shots behind Phil Mickelson who will claim another green jacket. Time will tell.

Tip of the week — Don’t be fooled by all the wild claims made by the manufacturers of golf equipment. Don’t buy clubs before you get a chance to hit them.

Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at subob@aol.com.

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