I first published this article four years ago. I still think it is relevent now …
Tiger Woods turns (40) 36 today.
I wish him well. Really, I do. He’s had a rough couple of years (albeit of his own making), and right now he’s got to be thinking about his golfing mortality. There’s no denying that physically (if not mentally) he’s somewhere on the back nine of his career. That’s a rough spot to be in. So, with a nod to Conway Twitty, instead of gifts, I’d like to take some things away.
I’d like to take away Tiger’s single minded pursuit of Majors. I actually think that he would have a better chance of breaking Jack’s record if he gave up the idea of breaking Jack’s record. Just play golf for the love of playing golf.
In that same vein, I’d take away the cynical scheduling. I’d tell him to play a few second tier events just because of the joy it would bring others—not because it’s a part of some grand strategy for winning Majors. Tiger should play the St. Jude, or the John Deere. The fans would remember it forever, and the associated charities would reap benefits for years to come. Tiger would accumulate some much needed good karma.
Then, I’d take away Tiger’s false friends and handlers. He needs people who love him enough to say no. I think he’s missed that since his father passed.
I’d take away the greed that leads him to play Abu Dhabi for the appearance fee instead of teeing it up at Torrey Pines where he is much beloved.
I’d take away the snarl on his face and replace it with the smile he had in his first few years on the Tour. My mother used to comment on Tiger’s “beautiful smile” and how happy he seemed. We don’t see enough of that now.
I’d take away the mask he wears at press events. His intentionally uninformative answers make him seem less human, less approachable and much less likable. Sticking to that agent-generated script has to put a strain on his psyche. “Refreshing Candor” should replace “tightly scripted.”
Finally, I’d take away all of the public’s and media’s expectations. It’s ok if Tiger doesn’t win or contend every time out. It’s ok to occasionally miss a cut. Tiger’s script says that those expectations don’t affect him, but that’s just unrealistic. There is no human being who can pass through that sort of media and public scrutiny unaffected.
I know that in this blog, I’ve been condemned as a “Tiger Hater.” The truth is that I have neither the time nor energy to hate anyone. I have, however, been consistently critical and I think a tad more realistic than the fawning masses of reporters. If the PGA Tour beat reporter or columnist offer a less than favorable critique, he runs the risk of never getting another interview. Unlike them, I have nothing to lose by offering realistic criticism. I’m never going to get an interview with Tiger under any circumstances.
I always operate under the premise that criticism is a good thing. When I was a cub reporter, my first editor absolutely savaged (in red grease pencil, no less) the first article I wrote. I was devastated because I’d worked so hard on the piece, and knew that I could write (at least, that’s what I had always been told). My editor, however, said something that I’ve carried with me ever since: Criticism is the acknowledgement that you can do better.
Tiger can do better. He just needs to let a few things go.
Here’s a video for the Conway Twitty Reference:
Seven Birthday Wishes For Tiger was first published December 30, 2011