Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Golf’ Category

Is Tiger Woods Still Relevant?

In Golf on July 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

No one wins a golf tournament so much as they don’t lose it. It’s 72 holes of survival of the fittest, and he who makes the fewest mistakes comes out on top on Sunday afternoon.

It’s a sport with no teammates and only one person who understands you—the caddie. You spend four days trying to avoid about 17 miles worth of land mines and it can all blow up on you in the final few feet—or even inches.

Does the collar get any tighter than it does for the professional golfer on the tourney’s last day, when he starts the morning with a four stroke lead and looks behind him and sees a gang charging after him, making birdies and sinking 25-foot putts, all while looking cool and collected?

It can be the loneliest place on Earth—being the leader of a major golf tournament in its waning hours. The pressure has gotten some of the game’s greats, and a whole lot of its goods.

The pro golfer can’t duck into the showers and hide out after the 72nd hole and then sneak out the back door of the locker room, avoiding reporters. He can’t point to an error by his third baseman or an errant pass by his point guard or a strange play called by his coach as a contributing factor to his loss.

Golf tournaments aren’t won, as a rule. They’re just not lost.

No one can snatch a tournament in come-from-behind fashion without a conspiracy involving the leader. The followers can make all the birdies and eagles that they want, but they’re useless unless the leader is three-putting or slicing a drive into the woods or hitting a fat fairway wood into a bunker on the approach.

The caveat here is that none of this was true when Tiger Woods was on top of the golfing world.

Tiger won tournaments. He didn’t not lose them.

Woods was the exception to the aforementioned corollaries. He was the exception, no matter if you wanted to throw Hogan, Nicklaus, Jones and Nelson into the mix. Woods was better than them all. He played in a league of one.

Golf was a game that Tiger Woods owned, more than Muhammad Ali owned boxing and more than Pete Sampras ever owned tennis. Tiger didn’t come from ahead to lose, and when he came from behind to win, the leader never had a prayer.

Woods became one of the world’s best known athletes, traveling the globe in his red shirt and black pants and all those magic wands in his bag. He had a smile that could light Broadway during a blackout.

Woods was the prodigy golfer—swinging clubs that were taller than he, when he was still diapered. Other kids had a playground; Woods had a driving range.

Golf was forewarned. In the years leading up to Tiger joining the PGA tour, the stories of his prowess on the links were told the same way wide-eyed bank patrons of the 1930s talked about Dillinger’s jobs.

Golf was forewarned. Tiger Woods didn’t sneak up on the PGA. His presence was announced beforehand, like a tornado—and no one can do anything about those, either, except weather them.

Woods won tournament after tournament—with more than a few majors sprinkled in—and when he wasn’t winning he was often scaring the bejeebers out of the guy who did win. From 1997-2009, Woods was the tour’s no. 1 money winner nine times out of 13.

Almost $100 million Woods has won, slapping that tiny, dimpled ball around like no one else.

Woods owned golf. He won as a teenager and he won as a young man and he won as a veteran and he won off the course, with endorsements and a gorgeous wife and a beautiful family.

There’s irony—and maybe a cruel joke—somewhere in the fact that the demise of Tiger Woods began on a Thanksgiving weekend.

It was November 2009 when the story broke of Woods being involved in a bizarre car wreck near his home. It wasn’t long before the facts began to ooze out: Woods had been a naughty boy, cheating on his gorgeous wife, former model Elin Nordegren.

Then out of the woodwork came women who also claimed to have had sexual relations with Woods.

Divorce soon followed and golf was put on the back burner while Woods sought help for his destructive, deviant behavior.

The road back for Tiger Woods has been pocked with injury and poor play. He’s an also ran now; just one of the guys to fill the field. He hasn’t won a tournament in two years, not really coming close, in fact.

He lost his wife and his family and his endorsements. He lost his edge on the golf course and his aura. No one fears Woods now; it’s as if the PGA tour has been freed from his bondage.

The majors are being won by first-timers and Cinderella stories. Woods has abdicated his throne and a bunch of paupers are getting the chance to sit in it.

The latest news about Woods came earlier this week, and like all news about him since November 2009, it wasn’t uplifting.

Woods announced that longtime caddie Steve Williams, Tiger’s best friend on the golf course since 1999, was being canned.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Stevie for all his help, but I think it’s time for a change,” Woods said, not explaining why a change was needed.

Speculation is that the relationship between Woods and Williams chilled like champagne on New Year’s Eve after Tiger and Nordegren split.

Williams joins swing coach Hank Haney as ex-Woods employees turned scapegoats for their boss’s poor play.

Since caddies get paid based on the success of the golfers for whom they work, the past two years have been lean times for Williams, who nonetheless stuck by Woods.

All it got Williams was kicked to the curb.

In an interview with Television New Zealand following his firing, Williams said, “Obviously, working through a scandal, he’s had a new coach, a swing change, the last 18 months has been very difficult and I’ve stuck by him through thick and thin. I’ve been incredibly loyal — and then to have this happen, basically you could say I’ve wasted two years of my life, the last two years.”

Williams will probably be better off in the long run, because it’s becoming apparent that Tiger Woods simply isn’t relevant anymore. He’s a broken man with Achilles and knee injuries who fights himself on the course something fierce, and loses.

It’s not overly dramatic to suggest that Woods, at age 35, is in the sunset of his golf career.

And, as usual with the pro golfer, he has no one to blame but himself.

Woods Doesn’t Owe You or Me an Apology; He Just Needs Help

In Golf on February 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

In journalism, it’s called burying the lead.

It’s the transgression of tucking the most important part of a story several paragraphs down, instead of in the opening, where it belongs.

Tiger Woods buried the lead.

First, Woods, the disgraced golfer, pitchman, and icon, doesn’t owe me an apology. He doesn’t owe you one, either. Or the person to your left, to your right, behind you, or in front of you.

He doesn’t.

The only people to whom he owes a big old “I’M SORRY” are his family and the companies who hired him to sponsor and promote their goods and services. That’s it.

I watched Woods slog through his scheduled statement on television on Friday, as did millions of others—also to whom Woods owes no apology, by the way—and while I found the dramatic pauses and looks into the camera and heavy sighs to be a little too rehearsed for my liking, I didn’t hear what was truly important until several minutes into the monologue.

Woods said, finally, about 10 minutes into his spiel, that he needs help, and has been getting it, by way of therapy—for some 45 days or so.

That was what he should have begun with; that was his lead, and he buried it.

I’ve never been a fan of the public apology. It’s the ultimate closing of the barn door after the horses are out.

“I’m sorry that I got caught,” is what the deliverer of such an apology is really saying. And don’t get me started on the apologies that, in reality, place the blame on those harmed.

“I’m sorry if you were offended,” is how those apologies go.


But Woods, at least, admitted that he needs help for his problem, which seems to be addictive in nature. That his addiction comes in the form of something that looks like 36-24-36 doesn’t make it any less problematic, or that which shouldn’t be taken seriously.

I don’t know what else you can ask from someone, if they admit to a problem, albeit a tad late, and take steps to get help for that problem.

The apology that comes without that addendum isn’t much of an apology; it’s merely a bone tossed to the masses over which we are to fight.

Tiger Woods, I’ve written before, is the Muhammad Ali of our time.

Ali, at his peak, was the most recognizable athlete in the world. You could argue he was the most recognizable person in the world. He dominated his sport and dwarfed his competition, both in terms of ability and charisma and largesse. When he left the sport briefly—forced out because of avoiding the draft—boxing wasn’t even close to the same as when he was in it. When he returned, so did boxing.

Woods dominates golf now like no man before him. I’ve seen Nicklaus and Palmer and Norman and Watson and Miller, and none of them distanced themselves as far from the rest of the field as Woods now has from his brethren.

Woods doesn’t yap like Ali did, but that doesn’t make him any less famous or iconic. There’s Tiger Woods, and then there’s the rest of the PGA tour members. He’s the dragon they all try like mad to slay every weekend, and just about every Sunday they fail.

But no golfer, that we know of, ever did the kinds of things that Woods has now admitted—to a degree—to doing. None of them ever had to schedule TV time to look their public in the peepers and say “sorry.”

But it’s not the “sorry” that’s important here. Anyone can get their hand caught in the cookie jar and schedule a time to publicly express regret. And they have.

But it’s taking that extra step—the admission of an addiction to cookies, for example—and seeking professional help that gives the public apology some credence.

Woods said that he plans on returning to golf someday, though he readily admitted that he has no idea when that day might come. He is rightfully placing his therapy and treatment on the front burner. Golf will always be there, waiting, when Woods is ready to grip a club again.

Woods says he has a long way to go—and he probably wasn’t just referring to his treatment. He has a marriage to repair, and that may not even be possible. Golf will always be waiting, but his wife might not.

Woods has a long way to go with his public, too, though that should be of less concern to him. He doesn’t have to be popular to make more money in golf. He doesn’t have to be the sport’s darling anymore to continue to dominate it.

Tiger Woods is a man with human frailties and an obvious weakness, and he’s paid the price for that. Now he is moving to fix it. I don’t know what else anyone should want other than that.

The apology was fine, but not necessary. He didn’t cheat on me. He didn’t cheat on you. He didn’t cheat on anyone other than his lovely wife and his beautiful children. Oh, and he cheated himself, for he may have lost that lovely wife and thus broken up what, on the surface, appeared to be a happy home.

He may have lost all that truly matters. No amount of Masters wins or U.S. Open victories or contracts to hawk Gillette products can make up for that kind of loss.

The end of this story, this cautionary tale, hasn’t been written.

But Woods is seeking help. He’s taken the first baby step to reparations.

That’s far more important than any “I’m sorry.”

It’s OK to be Interested in Tiger Woods Drama—With One Disclaimer

In Golf on December 3, 2009 at 7:00 pm

So Tiger Woods is human. Who knew?

You sure could have fooled me, with the way he slayed golf courses like the hero did to the dragons in one of those medieval yarns.

Human? Tell that to his fellow PGAers who are now merely notches on his belt. Tell it to Rocco Mediate, who had the 2008 U.S. Open in his hip pocket before Tiger lifted it in broad daylight. Tell it to anyone who’s led a tournament on a Sunday, only to see Woods storm through, leaving broken dreams and birdies in his wake.

Tiger Woods, human? Not on the golf course, where he’s shoved Nicklaus and Hogan and Palmer and Nelson and Jones aside, starting just out of diapers, for goodness sakes.

Tiger Woods, human? Not in the world of endorsements, either, where he’s had the sneaker people and car folks and razor blade companies rubbing the palms of his hands for years.

Tiger Woods, human? Well, he married a gorgeous, Nordic model and had two beautiful children and theirs seemed to be a life lived inside a snow globe, not a fish bowl.

But something funny happened the last time that globe got shaken up.

When the faux snowflakes settled, the Woods’ happy home looked different—immeasurably so.

Tiger Woods, human after all.

It’s a long, long table at which he will now take his next meal. It’s filled with politicians and CEOs and movie stars and just plain Regular Joes—all who’ve committed the very same “transgressions” Woods confessed to this week.

Not that he had much of a choice. The objects of his transgressions started coming out of the woodwork, one armed with text messages and e-mails, she said.

As a rule, the words “golf” and “scandal” go together like peanut butter and sauerkraut. You can find more titillating reads about static cling than you can about PGA tour members. As far as athletes go, golfers are a polo shirt and a pair of polyester slacks above bowlers in the personality department.

So Tiger Woods is again a trailblazer in the world of golf. He’s provided the sport its very first, rootin’ tootin’ sexcapade.

He’s human—and a man, a double whammy when it comes to having a sexual id. When a man says he regrets his actions (as Woods did in his public apology), what he really means is that he wishes like hell he’d never gotten caught. You think the affairs that have been alleged would have stopped had he not crashed his car early Saturday morning?

That’s not to say that Tiger isn’t sorry; I’m sure he is—and NOT just that he was busted. After your past catches up to you, out of breath but smirking, there’s time for reflection. It’s Olly Olly Oxen Free, so may as well sit down and think.

But should we care?

It’s a fantasy world, some of these pundits live in. Must be, to think that someone of Woods’ notoriety and fame is “just another guy.” The revelation that he’s human and not perfect isn’t the issue here. That ought not to be what shocks us.

What’s truly mind-boggling, to me, is the notion that this isn’t news, that it’s just a guy going through a tough time with his family.

I’ll make a deal with those types: I won’t give Tiger Woods any grief about what he’s done in his private life, as long as you don’t give grief to those who find this story fascinating.

You know of whom I speak. Those who cavalierly tell those who are following this story to “get a life,” which I find terribly offensive. If you pass the scene of a serious car accident, which is filled with flashing lights and paramedics and police and concerned onlookers, and you stop to take a gander, do you need to “get a life”?

It’s human nature to be fascinated with and have interest in the lives of celebrities and athletes. You think writes in a vacuum?

No, those who find the Tiger Woods drama interesting—and there can be many reasons why, other than pure lust for scandal—don’t need to “get a life.”

Just as long as they don’t pass judgment on his.

Tiger Not out of Woods Yet with Lame Website Statement

In Golf on November 30, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Tiger Woods is finally being brought to his knees.

Augusta couldn’t do it. Pebble Beach, neither. Nor could any of the vaunted courses across the pond.

A four-stroke deficit on a Sunday doesn’t faze Woods, either. Having to get up and down from 45 yards away, his ball in a pile of thatch? Piece of cake.

But this isn’t the golf course, it’s the fish bowl of celebrity.

Woods, who was involved in a single-car crash just outside his home over the weekend, is playing this one like Greg Norman trying to hold on to a lead in a major on the final day.

Tiger is shanking them and his approach shots are plopping into water hazards.

Woods is hoping that the statement he released on his website will satiate those among us who are a tad curious—and that number is no doubt in the tens of millions, at least— about what went down, and why at 2:25 a.m. Saturday, when Woods smashed into a fire hydrant and then a tree with his Cadillac.

The statement takes responsibility for the crash—duh, it was a single car mishap right out of the driveway; who ELSE’S fault would it be?—and praises the actions of wife Elin Nordegren, who according to reports used a golf club (I imagine there are a few of those lying around the Woods house, huh?) to smash the windshield so she could help extricate her husband from the vehicle.

The statement also apologized for the embarrassment the incident has caused, and it vowed that it will never happen again.

Bounding out of your driveway, ramming into a fire hydrant and then careening off a tree? I would hope not!

Sorry, Tiger—not enough. Your statement was a 75-yard chip shot when you’re 90 yards away from the green.

Tiger left this one short, alright. Now he needs to blast out of some serious rough, just to save bogey.

What was conspicuous by its absence was any REAL explanation of what happened late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Woods chided rumors and the irresponsibility of some of the sensationalistic reporting of the incident, yet did nothing to stop either—unless he fancies himself living in some fantasy land where folks take everything celebrities say at face value.

Was he popping out to the store for a late night Haagen Dazs run for his wife? Did he run out of Doritos?

The number of viable, explicable reasons why one leaves his/her home at 2:30 in the morning doesn’t create a very large cache. Unless Tiger took a graveyard shift to earn some extra dough, then we know he wasn’t on his way to work, either.

Why not come clean? Woods has, at press time, canceled three separate interview requests made by state troopers who want to ask, basically, “Hey, what happened?”

And the troopers are giving Tiger a wide berth here. Next time you or me or Joe Shmoe try to put off cops trying to investigate an incident at our home, see what happens.

Tiger Woods is the Muhammad Ali of his time, in that he’s recognizable worldwide. He’s iconic, and his mere being transcends golf, and even the entire world of sport. So when he crashes his car at 2:30 in the morning when no one else is around, it’d be nice to know what the hell went down.

The rumors, meanwhile, continue to swirl like the wind at Candlestick Park.

Tiger and Elin had a fight. Tiger stormed out. If that’s true, then good thing she used the golf club to smash the windshield and not his skull.

Tiger’s having an affair and was setting out for a late night tryst. If that’s true, see above re: Elin and the golf club.

The rumors that Woods derides, however, are like any vegetation: they need fertile ground in which to germinate. And it doesn’t get much more fertile than silence and cryptic “statements” that say everything yet answer nothing.

You’d think Tiger would know this. His whole life has been spent in the fish bowl, just about. You’d think he’d know how to handle an incident like this as if it was a par-4 at the Buick Open.

But Tiger is stumbling and bumbling. He’s making a mess of this hole.

Meanwhile, the vegetation of rumor and innuendo is climbing, like a vine, around his life. And that stuff grows fast.

He ought to know that.

Tiger’s Almost Back — And So Is The PGA

In Golf on February 23, 2009 at 4:53 pm

“Woods was holding the PGA hostage while he recovered from his injuries, but he didn’t do it with any malice. It was just the way it was.”

Do they still hold pro golf tournaments? Is the PGA still in business, or did it take a hiatus?

Answers: They’re about to again, and, yes — it’s on hiatus.

You remember the PGA, don’t you? The Professional Golfers Association? In case you were wondering, the PGA hasn’t dissolved. It hasn’t held a massive auction on eBay to get rid of all of its tees and flags and “Shhhh” signs.

But there haven’t been any tournaments lately. Not for quite some time. If the PGA was a retail outlet, it would have a sign out front that reads, “Closed for remodeling.”

Yet there is hope, for the golf fan. The PGA is about to re-open — but there might not be all that much new to see.

Tiger Woods, they say, is getting closer and closer to returning, following knee surgery and the birth of another child, for which he showed his fatherly support.

The PGA is back in business.

Think I’m being facetious and smarmy?

Quick — name me some PGA tour winners over the past six months or so.

Woods is just about back, and so is golf.

I’m sorry, but Tiger Woods IS the PGA. There — it’s about time someone said it. The PGA, minus Woods, is like one of those inflatable characters you see on front lawns during the Christmas season, but deflated. You’ve seen how pathetic and sad those things look when there is no air being pumped into them? Face first on the grass; splayed out. But now here comes Tiger Woods. The inflatable PGA is about to be plugged in again. The air is about to be flowing through it again.

Why argue this? Why bother trying to purport that there is actually genuine interest in any golfer other than Woods? Why should there be, anyway?

Tiger Woods is pro golf. Has been for years. Will be for many more. And there’s no shame in that.

Sorry, Phil Mickelsen fans. Hate to break it to you, Vijay Singh enthusiasts. All you Davis Love the Third zealots and Corey Pavin rooters from the old school, give it up.

Tiger is the man, and that’s just the way it is.

I’ve long said that it’s OK for golf, or tennis, or any individual sport, to have a dominant figure. The proof is in the excising of that individual.

Was golf on your radar while Woods convalesced?

All you die-hard fans — the ones who’ll golf no matter what — all you folks take a step backward. I’m speaking now to the casual-to-moderate fan. The ones who wonder what golf would be like without Woods to preside over it.

Well, wonder no longer.

Woods was holding the PGA hostage while he recovered from his injuries, but he didn’t do it with any malice. It was just the way it was.

So soon we can all get back to watching Woods dominate and wonder if any of the other poor saps can give him a run for his money for any length of time. There’s also the curiosity factor re: Woods’s repaired leg and whether it will allow him to continue to keep all the Lilliputian golfers at arm’s length from him. But I’d bet that the answer to that question will be a resounding YES, and will be proven in short order. Like maybe with the first major in which Woods appears.

Tiger Woods is just about back. Golf has been re-inflated.

Mediate A Liar, But That’s A "Gentleman’s Game" For You

In Golf, Rocc Mediate, Tiger Woods on June 16, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Rocco Mediate is a liar.

That’s OK — we’ve all spurned the truth when it suits our needs. We’ve all fibbed — or told one stinking whopper — either out of desperation, spite, or convenience.

But few of us have spoken into a microphone and lied so blatantly as Mediate did yesterday after watching his dream of winning golf’s U.S. Open take a severe hit. Mediate was grabbed by the NBC folks, just moments after Tiger Woods sunk a 12-foot birdie putt to force an 18-hole playoff today. And he was asked if he was rooting for Woods to miss the putt, thus making Mediate the champion.

“I never root for someone to miss,” Mediate fibbed. “You can never root for a guy to miss a putt,” he then added — the stinking whopper.

Um, for that kind of purse, that kind of first-place dough — you bet your Big Bertha you can root for a guy to miss.

I know, golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game. It would, therefore, appear to be unseemly to wish a cup-lipping or a skate past the hole on your opponent.

But is it, really, with that kind of notoriety and cash on the line?

Second-place finishers don’t go home with an empty wallet — I know that. But at the same time, no one — NO ONE — remembers much about who Placed more than a day or two after the event. Mediate might be different, only because if Woods wins — maybe better said when Woods wins — it will have occurred in a playoff, and that might buy Rocco some more love. But he will still have lost — and that’s pretty much all that matters.

Mediate is 45 and his time for winning a major is dwindling. Not that Woods cares. Woods, apparently, is no liar — no Rocco Mediate in that sense.

When asked if he felt even the least bit sorry for Mediate, Woods had a one-word, honest reply.

“No,” he said flatly.

Gentleman’s game, indeed!

There was at least some shred of truth to something Mediate said. As NBC replayed the tourney-tying putt and the aftershock, one of the clips was of Mediate, with sound.

“I knew he’d make it,” Mediate said, his mouth tightening.

“He’s Tiger Woods!” someone chimed in.

No lie.

Lopez Wants To Tee It Up Again? Fine With Me

In Golf on March 22, 2007 at 2:12 pm

It was embarrassing to watch, no question. The wobbly outfielder had no business being in a spring training game, let alone a World Series match. Unable to run the basepaths with any competency, nonetheless he was in centerfield, and now a long flyball was hit in his general direction.

I can still see the image of 42-year-old Willie Mays, once the Say Hey Kid, stumbling in the outfield grass of Oakland’s Coliseum during the 1973 World Series. He wasn’t Say Hey anymore; he was Hey Lookout!

Mays was terribly past his prime when his Mets tussled with the A’s in a thrilling seven-game series (the A’s won), and thankfully retired soon after. I was a tad too young to see Mays perform in his prime, so unfortunately my lasting impression is of him fighting a losing battle with Father Time.

Others, too, I’ve watched perform when the calendar has been less than kind, and I’ve wished that they were in street clothes, watching from the stands, rather than in uniform, trying to participate.

Still, I must disagree with the Free Press’s Carlos Monarrez, the paper’s golf writer, who is against Nancy Lopez making an LPGA tour comeback of sorts, at age 50. Monarrez is afraid, and maybe justifiably so, that Lopez, who hasn’t broken par since 2002 and finished dead last in her only tour event in 2006, will embarrass herself as she plans to play six events this year, beginning with the Ginn Open on April 12.

I feel where Carlos is coming from, I really do. But I’ve never been comfortable with sportswriters, fans, talk radio mouths, or even bottom feeding bloggers and magazine editors deciding when it’s time for an athlete to hang ’em up. That’s a decision that is theirs and theirs alone.

Here’s the deal: these folks have been performing in their sport since they were barely out of diapers, in some instances. Even a ballplayer at the relatively young age of 35 has probably been playing organized ball for nearly 30 years at that point. So it’s not so easy to walk away sometimes. The retired athletes I’ve spoken to have repeated the reason: they miss the camaraderie, the togetherness of team, the spirit of competition. Once it’s in your blood, it’s awfully hard to remove.

So who’s to say when it’s time to say “when”? Only the athlete him/herself. Only the person who’s putting their body thru the rigors of training, dietary changes, and other physical sacrifices in order to try to recapture past glories. True, often the comeback bids are failed. Often they don’t come close to materializing in games that count. But at least the athlete has left it all out there, and can ease back into retirement comfortable that there wasn’t anything left in the tank — the nagging feeling of which can haunt for years.

Lopez epitomizes this premise, and said so to Monarrez.

“I think this time I’ll know if it’s really the time to walk away because of your body and because of your age and what your body is telling you more than anything,” she says.

Monarrez closes his piece by saying that Lopez deserves to remain “atop the leader board of our memory as a youthful, vigorous champion untouched by the passage of time.”

I can empathize with Monarrez here, I really can. But his words, and those of others who feel the same way about the aging, once-great athlete, are terribly selfish. They are words spoken and written by the person who wants no memories tarnished, even at the expense of the peace of mind of the very same athlete they are admiring.

Only the athlete knows when to say when. We have no business making that decision for them.