Archive for Friday, June 20, 2003

Tiger’s star fading, but not for long

June 20, 2003


So I'm at the driving range Monday, on what's usually the quietest evening of the week, and I can't hardly snap hook my 3-wood for all the racket.

"I'm Jim Furyk!" shouts one young boy with a voice like an air raid siren. And sure enough, when I turn around the kid is poised in the middle of his backswing, apparently tracing hieroglyphics in the air with the head of his 7-iron.

No sooner has the first kid swung when another one pipes up. "I'm Stephen Leaney!" he screams. I check him out, and you know what? Could be.

A third kid, decked out in his thrift-shop, test-pattern finest, pipes up: "I'm Fredrik Jacobson!"

"Mike Weir!" sings out a voice to my left. "Dicky Pride!" comes the call from my right.

I'm starting to wonder what a body has to do to get some quiet so he can apply the requisite amount of action to his monster slice when I find out.

"I'm Tiger Woods!" says the mousy lad two stalls behind me.

The silence is deafening.

"Tiger Woods," I think to myself. "Tiger Woods. Wait, I know that name."

It takes some quiet reflection and quality time with a search engine, but I finally match the name with the face and a few pertinent details. Of course, Tiger Woods. Next great thing. Rightful heir to Jack Nicklaus, Muhammad Ali, Malcom X and Ghandi, not necessarily in that order. Had that major championship fetish going on a couple years ago.

Tiger Woods, the kid who turned pro in 1996, making him older, in a pop culture sense, than the Backstreet Boys, plus the Spice Girls, times Bob Dole's concession speech.

Tiger Woods, yeah.

My curiosity is piqued. I need to know what the guy is up to these days. I take a quick rip 'round the Net. To my surprise, I find:

CBS "Woods on his disappointing weekend." "Tiger without a major to defend." "Tiger's driver doesn't make a difference." "Tiger's aura of invincibility fading fast." "Banks introduce 75-cent surcharge for using word 'bank.'"

But I digress.

The headlines sound harsh, but that's life under the French fry lights. First comes the anticipation. Then comes the initial glow of achievement. Then comes the stunning specter of unrelenting success.

You win four majors in a row -- the Tiger Slam -- and you're a star. Then you lose four in a row -- Tiger slammed -- and the kid at the driving range is a Stephen Leaney wannabe.

Tiger can blame himself in part for his current pop culture crisis. He has built his schedule around golf's major championships. The rest of the time he's almost invisible. Check out his daytimer next time you get a chance. It reads: "Tune-up, tune-up, major, lunch with Nike. Tune-up, tune-up, major, Buick commercial. Tune-up, tune-up, major, dinner with Mark O'Meara. Etc."

We like to see young, appealing athletes start out. We like to see them succeed. We grow bored fairly easily. And when the winning stops, for whatever amount of time, we like to try to figure out where things went wrong.

Even if nothing's wrong.

Or worse, we aim our limited attention at a new target.

A prediction: Woods will win another major, possibly before his next dinner with O'Meara.

Another prediction: He won't be forgotten. More likely, he'll be remembered for the right reasons.

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