The Players Championship: Why I’m Rooting Against Tiger

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2009 at 8:25 pm
What, no Nike swoosh tattoo on the biceps Tiger?

What, no Nike swoosh tattoo on the biceps Tiger?

Tiger Woods is, unarguably, one of the two greatest golfers of all time. He is consistently spectacular on the course and ruthless in his pursuit of victory. He is clearly better than everyone else on Tour and he is the picture of dominance every time he pulls the clubs from his bag. He is the Michael Jordan of golf and probably the signature athlete of the last decade. I have followed his career since he first exploded into fame with his bright red shirts and convincing Tour wins, and I’ve rooted for him for years.

So why do I find myself rooting against him today? He’s sitting at 5 under at the Players Championship, 6 strokes off the lead, and while I would like to see him make a run, I definitely do not want him to win. This is the first time I’ve felt this way, and I’m trying to figure out why.

I think I’ve just had enough of Tiger Woods.

In the last decade or so, a disturbing trend has emerged – our greatest athletes have also become our most boring. For every KG (Anyyythingggg is possssibleeeeeeeee) there are 10 Kobes or A-Rods or Crosbys – guys who’s public personas are so impeccably groomed, so perfectly manicured, so numbingly bland that you can’t help but wonder what they are really like. Tiger Woods is the king of this type of athlete. His interviews and press conferences are lessons in the art of the cliche. He’s a blank slate, a robotic golf genius. There’s no questioning the fact that he is the best in the game – possibly the best ever – but at the end of the day, who is Tiger Woods? I have no idea.

It hasn’t always been like this. When he first burst onto the scene, Tiger was kind of goofy, almost a dork, with his big smile and happy-to-be-here candidness. He called himself a Cablinasian, joked with the press, and gave interesting interviews. Today he’s a shell of that former self, just another businessman athlete with a one-note, corporate demeanor. It’s indicative of the attitude of most athletes in this era of scandal-mongering and round-the-clock coverage. Why would Tiger risk offending anyone today, especially when he has so much to lose in terms of ad revenue and sponsorship dollars? You almost can’t blame him for shutting everyone out.

But I do. And here’s why: The greatest, most memorable athletes in our history are those who have made a mark not only with their talent but also with their personalities. Take Muhammad Ali for instance. His name persists in the American consciousness largely because of the stand he took on Vietnam in the 60’s when he had more to lose than anyone. Of course, he was also the best boxer in history. But therein lies the thing that guys like Tiger don’t understand – if you are the best at what you do, it really doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth. You think tournaments would suddenly start banning Tiger from playing if he was a little more candid with the press? Or that Nike would take him off the payroll if he made a few jokes once in a while? Not going to happen. I understand that he wants to be a “global icon” (thanks, Lebron) in the Michael Jordan vein, the first athlete billionaire, and he still could be, even if he opened up once in a while. But he never does. Over the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve never once read an interesting article about Tiger Woods – Bill Simmons touched on this in his last ESPN The Magazine article. Each reads the same way. “Tiger’s ruthless. Tiger loves to win. Tiger’s the ultimate competitor. [Insert cliched quote].” It’s boring, frankly. Now, no one is going to say that Tiger is boring to watch on the course. When he’s making a Sunday charge or protecting a 5-stroke lead against a Mickelson or a Singh, it’s undeniably exciting. It’s always exciting to watch the best do their best work. But I just wish that every once in a while, he’d provide a little more than just W’s and L’s.

Instead of Tiger, give me a guy like Boo Weekley any day. A guy who casually mentions to reporters that he only plays professional golf so that he can retire with enough money to hunt and fish all day.

A guy who’s website offers autographed dip tins.

Currently ordering one of these

Currently ordering one of these

A guy who puzzlingly went for the green on Augusta National’s 15th hole every day during the 2008 Masters and when asked about it, responded, “Oh. I thought it was a par-4, to tell you the truth.” A guy who wears camouflage and squirts streams of chewing tobacco on Augusta’s storied greens. And a guy who also happens to have one of the sweetest swings on Tour.

Boo came to this tourney straight from a duck blind

Yeah, Boo’s a guy who I can root for. He’s a character, a genuine Good Old Boy on a tour filled with country club types and bland megastars. He openly admits that golf isn’t the end-all and be-all for him; actually, he’d rather be fishing. When asked about shooting at 64 at the US PGA, he said, “It was fun. What would be even funner would be sitting at the house catching a ten pounder.” He’s real and – guess what – he’s also quickly becoming a fan favorite as an anti-Tiger. It seems people can relate to his down-home candidness, that the public doesn’t care that he has no idea what Amen Corner is. Perhaps Tiger should take a few notes. Maybe Boo won’t ever be a billionaire or a worldwide icon like Woods, but at the end of the day at least we’ll know who he is.

In twenty years, in all likelihood Tiger Woods will have retired as the greatest golfer who ever lived. He’ll design courses, fly around in private jets, and continue to rake in gobs of money. In twenty years, he’ll be fantastically rich, but will he be satisfied? When asked, he’ll probably respond “I just played some good golf over the years. Went out there and played my game. It is what it is.” In twenty years, we’ll still have no idea who he is.

But one thing’s for sure: In twenty years, Boo Weekley will be sitting on a dock somewhere with a dip in, fishing. And he’ll be happy.

That’s who he is.

  1. […] As I’ve mentioned before, Game Six has long been tired of the Tiger Show, so this year we’re dedicated to bringing you a list of other guys to watch for through the weekend. Guys who could, with the right conditions and a couple fortunate bounces from the little white ball, unseat The King himself: […]

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