By Oh Young-jin
Assistant managing editor
Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods is coming to Korea next month. According to his sponsor, Nike, during his half-day golf “clinic,” Tiger will help Korean golfers hone their skills. A field of 100 amateur golfers will be invited to compete in tests of such skills as bunker shots and approaches among others with 30 finalists selected to meet Tiger up close for a lesson.
The news of the visit by the golf genius, who has won 14 major championships, being only second to Jack Nicklaus’s 18, is not entirely good news for me.
Although I believe that anybody deserves a second chance, Tiger has been given one too many blown second chances.
His visit may help some golfers improve their game and give them “bragging rights” but, the chance is that, to the bigger audience, it will be a sideshow and it will reinforce golf’s negative image that it doesn’t deserve. In a way, Nike is prudent enough not to hold a question-and-answer session during Tiger’s visit. “We will ask reporters to submit their questions and select some from them that Tiger will address,” a public relations officer of an agency hired by Nike told The Korea Times.
In a reverse chronological order, let’s take the example of a clip on the Internet about his recent appearance on U.S. NBC television’s talk show, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” With Tiger as a guest, Fallon, the host, talked about “balls, shaft, holes and foursomes.” There is no need to talk further about Fallon’s choice of these words with double entendres. Fallon profusely thanked him for providing material for late-night talk show hosts to trash. In response, Tiger smiled an odd smile that needs explaining.
In a sense, Tiger’s smile can be interpreted as a sign of embarrassment. In another, he looked as if he was trying to look cool, showing the audience that he has overcome the most unsavory chapter of his public life.
He ended up looking as a sideshow that was quite removed from his game of golf. I wish he had not appeared on the show and stayed home, although I understand the pressure he feels to interact with the public on million-dollar contracts with his sponsors.
A recent article in the New York Post about Woods’ new date, the 22-year-old Alyse Lahti Johnston, was made to sound scandalous by a reference in the tabloids to the stepdaughter of a sports marketing agency, IMG, who Woods first met when she was seven years old in a grade school.
From her photos available on the Internet, she looks very similar to Elin Nordegren, Tiger’s Scandinavian ex-wife and former swimsuit model. Maybe, Tiger can’t forget the memories of his having good times with his wife and their toddler daughter and son, Sam and Charlie. Tiger went through a nasty divorce, giving Nordegren alimony of $100 million plus the custody of their children. At least, one of the articles suggested similarities in appearance between his new date and ex. If it is a case of Tiger’s obsession with his ex, it may be worth being taken up by psychoanalysts.
Then, there was the Tiger who was caught on television spitting a mouthful of phlegm on the 12th green of the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic in February.
He was fined for that misconduct. But the more unforgivable part of his spitting scandal was his lack of consideration for other players.
The green is the ground of the fiercest battle in the game of golf where one tiny obstacle can send your putt awry and cost you a stroke. It is a behavior unexpected of an amateur golfer and it is certainly unworthy of a seasoned professional like Tiger.
But to people like me, an avid amateur who wants to improve my game but can’t, the biggest reason for disapproving of Tiger is that he has wasted his talent. He has a talent that rivals Mozart in classical music and Einstein in science but he has been reduced to an “ordinary” golfer, after the revelation of his extramarital flings with a number of women. I wonder whether Tiger can overcome it and live up to the potential he once had. Even if he recovers to the level of he used to play at, I don’t think that I can enjoy his game as much as I used to.
Woods may claim that he is just as human as the next guy with all faults and flaws and ask for a second chance but whatever his plea is destined to sound hollow because our expectations of him had been raised so high that they couldn’t be brought down to earth without making him look like an angel who fell from grace. So, I am suggesting that, when Tiger comes to my town, he will likely end up as a distraction from the game of golf with nothing more to offer.