- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
I suspect Tiger still thinks he can be the perfect husband and the perfect father, even with all that has happened. That's the male ego. I've been there. I went through a difficult divorce in the late 1990s. My first wife and I had three wonderful daughters together. When things went bad in the marriage I wanted to take the blame for everything. Still, I couldn't fix it all. Eventually you ask yourself, Should I be trying to fix everything? For me the answer was no. When I realized that, I was freed up to accept failure, get divorced, find love again, remarry, have a fourth child. They call the senior tour the ultimate life mulligan. I've already taken mine, and it was the smartest thing I ever did. My wife, Dory, and our daughter, Charlotte, and I just spent three months together on the road. Almost 90 nights in hotels and the guest rooms of friends and family. And we loved it. Tiger will discover that his life, though changed, will go on. He's getting a mulligan here too. People are always willing to give somebody a second chance.
I first met Tiger when he was 13. I was playing in the Shark Shootout in Los Angeles, and this skinny kid was hanging on the ropes, challenging me to a chipping and putting contest. I smoked him. In 1992 I played a practice round with him at the Honda Classic. He was 16, and I was "Mr. Faxon." First hole he outdrove me by 30 yards.
Five years later I found myself trying to get him to sign a Masters-logoed golf ball for a charity that Billy Andrade and I run. We were going to auction off a beautiful Brazilian walnut display case with a signed ball from every living Masters winner. We had an empty slot for '97. Tiger won by 12, and then he disappeared for five weeks. (Five weeks!) He's in the locker room at the Byron Nelson, and his locker is jammed with letters, packages, photos, flags, balls—anything with a Masters logo. Stuff is practically tumbling out at him. Another person might have been amused, but he wasn't. I put the ball back in my pocket.
You really couldn't treat Tiger as if he were just another player, because he wasn't, at least that's what I was thinking right then. But now, as he returns to the Tour, this is an ideal time for fresh starts all the way around. Almost every Tour member has some sort of charity event at his home club, and there are a lot of Tour players who are too nervous to ask Tiger to sign or donate something. I'd love to see Tiger send out the message that he's approachable. Tiger has had a stranglehold on the 7 a.m. tee time on the Wednesday pro-ams for years. It would be nice for him to play some in the afternoon when many more people would have a chance to see him. I'd like to see him commit to tournaments earlier than the Friday before the tournament is played. It would be great to hear him talk about the swing with other players on the driving range, to give an interview now and then where he talks about what the game means to him, to drop in on a Tour player meeting, to play once in a while in Memphis or Las Vegas or at Pebble Beach, tournaments that have done so much for the Tour and so much for him. To be part of the community of golfers. You can do that and still be a world-beater. Palmer did. Nicklaus and Watson did too. Phil does it.
Now would also be an excellent time for Phil and Tiger to bury their Arnold versus Jack phase (1960--75) and enter the Arnie and Jack love-affair phase (1976--present). Golf fans can't get enough of Tiger and Phil. In San Diego in 2003 I played with Tiger and Phil in the last group on Sunday. It was the most fun I could have had while shooting 73 and playing my way into oblivion. Remember last year at the Masters, when those two were paired together on Sunday? People couldn't get enough. Phil's an artist and Tiger's a grinder, and they complement each other more than they know. My old caddie, Tommy Lamb, could watch Phil practice pitch shots all day long. On that Sunday at Torrey Pines, Tiger hit a 215-yard four-iron into the wind that was so pure Tommy moaned in admiration.
Tiger is the ultimate golf nut. That's what I picked up from him when he was 13, when he was 16, when I saw him working on his putting the other day at Isleworth. A few years ago I was playing in Tiger's charity event in Los Angeles. We were on a putting green circled by hundreds of fans. Tiger and I started talking about the stroke, just as we did at Isleworth, about the position of the left thumb, about swing plane, about what the release feels like. Jim Furyk, also a great putter, joined us. I was very aware that hundreds of people were trying to listen in on our conversation, including Vijay Singh, who was hovering nearby. All that added to the excitement for me. But Tiger was able to block all of that out. It was so intense and so much fun. For Tiger, it was all about the golf, about doing a difficult thing not only well but also better than anyone else has ever done it. Maybe he didn't get love from the public for that, but he certainly got respect.
Now he'll be looking to find a way back to where he was. If he can win us back—all of us, duffers and pros alike—he'll be making an important first step. Augusta National, of all places, is where he'll start. Real golfers don't care about Tiger's text messages. We want to know what club he hit into 13.
Now on GOLF.com
For instant analysis of Tiger's Augusta press conference, go to GOLF.com/presstent
GOLF.COM • SIGOLFNATION.COM