"I am, by
nature, a control freak," Tiger says with a smile.
The smile is
sheepish. It says, I get teased about this all the time.
Tiger sits on one
side of a conference table. I sit on the other. A Nike Golf executive, a
longtime acquaintance of mine, stands by the door. She checks her watch every
minute or so to make sure I don't take more than my allotted 10 minutes.
Outside, on the
tarmac, a Gulfstream 5 waits with its stairs lowered. It is parked not far from
a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, beyond which the L.A. traffic
whooshes by in hazy sunshine.
So when Tiger
confesses that he is a control freak, I have to fight the impulse to snort
derisively. You think?
I've opened with a
few seconds of small talk. I've told Tiger how much I enjoyed playing with him
the previous week in the pro-am of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. ("Cool,"
he says, his expression giving no indication that he remembers.) We then get
down to business. Or rather, we talk about business. For 9 1/2 minutes.
When my time is up,
I reach across the table and shake Tiger's hand. Nodding to my friend, I walk
out of the room, down the hallway, out the front door of the terminal, across
the tarmac and up the stairs of the G5.
What? You thought
the plane was Tiger's?
THINK OF me as an
auditor. My assignment: Tiger Woods 2006. I have the ledgers right here, and
the numbers are great. He won eight PGA Tour events last year, including the
British Open and the PGA Championship. He topped the money list for the seventh
time and was voted the Tour's Player of the Year for the eighth time. He beat
Ernie Els in a playoff at the Dubai Desert Classic. He won his last six PGA
Tour events and then mopped up the season with unofficial wins at the Grand
Slam of Golf and his own Target World Challenge.
But there are some
anomalies. A 22nd at the Players Championship, won by Stephen Ames.
Thirty-three putts and no final-round kick in a third-place finish at the
Masters, won by Phil Mickelson. A missed cut--Tiger's first in a major as a
professional--at the U.S. Open, won by Geoff Ogilvy.