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Tiger 2.0
John Garrity
April 02, 2007
"I am, by nature, a control freak," Tiger says with a smile.
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April 02, 2007

Tiger 2.0

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Tiger smiles. "I guess you don't become billionaires by making bad decisions."

LATER, STRAPPED into a comfortable leather armchair on the G5, I stretch my legs and sip a cold 7-Up. The brown expanse of the Mojave Desert, 44,000 feet below, resembles an unrolled bolt of tanned leather.

Tiger's talk about risk and reward has left me vaguely discomfited. I think back to one of his more memorable golf shots--the 213-yard six-iron from a fairway bunker that he smacked over a guarding pond to 15 feet to beat Grant Waite on the last hole of the 2000 Canadian Open. If you asked me to review that shot in a PowerPoint presentation, I'd draw a graph with a flat reward line (because the $594,000 first-prize check meant nothing to Tiger) and a risk line as steep as Everest (because his ball figured to make a splash before settling on the pond's murky bottom). But I'd be misstating the risk, because Tiger knew he could pull off that shot.

That leads me to ruminations on Nicklaus, who in his prime was famously strong yet paradoxically cautious, an actuary in spikes. "To watch Nicklaus putt," I once wrote, "is to watch a diamond cutter at work--three minutes of scrutiny and analysis followed by a single sure stroke resulting in something sparkling."

I share these thoughts with Nike Golf president Bob Wood, who is sitting in the facing armchair. Wood is an interesting man, an iconoclastic Californian who collects vintage guitars and maintains an impressive wine cellar. He makes the pertinent observation that Tiger, a fitness freak, embraces a diet of chicken breasts and broccoli. "Only it's four chicken breasts and a bucket of broccoli."

Tiger's famous discipline, in other words, is not grounded in abstemiousness.

I am also puzzled by Tiger's mention of "billionaires"--plural--not making bad decisions. I assume he is close to Nike Sports founder and CEO Phil Knight, who ranks 69th on the Fortune money list with an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion. But Tiger also has the ear of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed, who owns the famed Godolphin racing stables and whose family has a reported net worth of $10 billion, outbid Chinese interests last year for the honor of building the first Tiger Woods--designed golf course. The course, dubbed Al Ruwaya (meaning "serenity"), will anchor an upscale development featuring 20 homes and 300 luxury villas called Tiger Woods-- Dubai. It's just one element of a gargantuan enterprise called Dubailand. Tiger's cut, if you buy into the rumors, will be as much as $45 million.

It suddenly occurs to me that Tiger, with his line about billionaires, might be talking about himself.

It's a lovely day at the Emirates Club. . . .

Palms rustle, birds chirp, pile drivers hammer, tractors roar, construction cranes rattle, saws whine, Dumpsters clang, trucks groan, and traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road lays down an ambient layer of white noise. It's February 2007, the week of the Dubai Desert Classic, and Dubai is growing. What was vacant desert on my last visit is now a construction project to beggar the imagination. Dozens of skyscrapers are springing up around the Emirates Club course. Twelve-lane freeways coil in serpentine interchanges jammed with backhoes and bulldozers.

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