Dü Schbag: Tiger Woods finishes last in British Open and I can’t stop laughing

In the immortal words of Reese Bobby, if you ain’t first, you’re last.

He isn’t the only one who thinks that, either. I once listened to a radio interview as the host tried to engage Tiger Woods on the topic of his legacy, with the general thrust being “what if you don’t break Jack Nicklaus’s record for most majors?” Repeatedly – as in six or seven questions in a row – Woods refused to even acknowledge the possibility. He just kept answering with one word: “Eighteen.” As in, the number of major tournament victories needed to equal Jack’s epic tally.

So in Tiger’s head, nothing matters in life past wins at the British, US Open, Masters and PGA. Other tournaments are nice, I’m sure, but they don’t really count and second in a major is last.

Woods today extended his string of last place finishes, posting a final round score of 74 (+3) to finish even with Hideki Matsuyama and Zach Johnson (unlike Woods, they were tied for sixth).

May the gods deliver me from the gleeful schadenfreude in my soul, but I can’t stop giggling. Once upon a time Woods was king of the world, not just winning everything in sight, but swaggering around the course, intimidating and even bullying his opponents with the ruthless transcendence of his game. If he was level going into Sunday, it was over. The rest of the field was playing for second. Or, in Tiger’s view, the privilege of being the best loser.

But then Thanksgiving 2009 rolled around and his wife discovered that being king of the world apparently involved balling every stripper, porn star, hooker and amateur hoochie within driving distance of a tour stop. One can’t help recalling this bit from Don Juan DeMarco:

DONA ANA: “I will accept that I am not the first (woman you made love to), if you will tell me, with the same honesty, how many others there have been.”
(VO: This would have been a very good time for me to lie, but truth is a terrible habit.)
JOHN: “Including you, there have been, exactly, one… thousand, five hundred and two.”
(VO: I could see that this was a sum substantially greater than the one she had in mind…)

Mrs. Woods then attempted delicate brain surgery on Tiger, using, we’re given to understand, a nine iron.

Now, I was clear from the get-go – I try to make no judgments on what happens inside other people’s marriages. I’ve had the misfortune to learn the hard way that nobody knows the truth of things except the two people involved, and sometimes not even them.

Still, if I learned that one of my friends was behaving in this fashion, it is very likely that he’d now be a former friend. It is one thing to not judge as an outsider, and another entirely to want that sort of person in your own life.

Since then we’ve all been treated to a twisted public drama, beginning with the most awkward press conference in recent memory, where Woods stood before family, friends and a lot of cameras and tried to act as though he had a soul. He went into counseling and emerged committed to being a kinder, gentler Tiger. But once he became publicly vulnerable, people who had kept their mouths shut (one supposes for fear of losing their access to the biggest name in the game) began leaking insider details about the real Eldrick Tont Woods. The picture that emerged was not a pretty one – he was a privileged, hateful douchenozzle whose behavior made me go so far as to wonder if he didn’t have at least a slight touch of sociopathy about him. I still wonder that, actually. I may be wrong, but I have a hard time imagining him tipping his waitress more than a dollar. Unless, you know, she’s really hot and wants to come up to his room for a little “bottle service,” if you get my drift.

When he finally returned to the course, it quickly became clear that he’d lost his mojo. Lots and lots of theories were tested out, and many sort of accepted that he needed to change his swing.

Blah blah blah. Listen, every golfer has to stay on top of the technique thing and over the course of a career, the physical skills evolve in ways that require fine tuning and even the occasional complete overhaul. But the thing I began wondering about wasn’t physical or technical. It was psychological. To wit: did his on-course success depend on his being an amoral, predatory asshole?

The question I’m easing up on is this: can a kinder, gentler Tiger Woods be successful the way that the appalling King of the World Tiger was? Let’s face it, that look in Tiger 1.0′s eye coming down the back nine on Sunday with a three-shot lead was the same look he probably had as he stared out past the velvet rope. On the course it was “hand me the 8-iron and watch me step on this bitch’s neck.” Off the course he was like Al Czervik in a whorehouse: “bring me the blonde, the redhead and three of the brunettes. I’ll have one of those, three of those, a box of these…. Hey, everybody, we’re gonna get laid!” Tiger 1.0 was a predator, on the course and off. And that was central to his identity. It was more than what he did. It was who he was.

But to what extent has the process of building the nicer, cuddlier Tiger 2.0 neutered the essential edge he needed to dominate the game of golf? If you’ll pardon me putting it this way, to what extent does his on-course success hinge on the F-bombs, treating people like lepers and fucking everything his eye surveys? Can you significantly alter the man’s fundamental essence without compromising the psychology that made him one of the two greatest golfers in history?

At present, the answer is “we don’t know.” But it’s not a question that can be dismissed. Maybe he just needs time to adjust to being the 2.0. Maybe it’s not about his psychology at all – maybe this is just a routine slump.

However, it’s also possible that when all is said and done, the only road back to the top runs directly through a gauntlet of porn stars, professionals and cocktail waitresses with low self-esteem and questionable moral character. That’s not a pretty picture to contemplate, I know, but humans are complex animals.

Tiger has every shot in the bag and he’s #1 in the world and at the absolute worst he’ll be remembered as the most dominant force in his era in golf and the second best of all time. But you know what, a lot of guys on the tour have every shot in the bag. When push comes to shove, the difference between second and tenth in a major is a lot narrower than the difference between first and second. Top ten is about being a great player and having a good week. But winning is about will. It’s about psychology and, if you’ll forgive the expression, the eye of the tiger. There was never any question that Woods could again win tournaments and be the world #1. But for a guy as good as him, that’s not the test. The test, in his own words, is can he win a major. When the chips are down on the grandest stage, as they were today in the final round of the most prestigious tournament in the sport, can he close?

For five years now – that’s 17 majors in a row in which he has competed – the answer has been a resounding no. 17 tries, 17 last place finishes.

While I’ve never met the guy, I’ve certainly read enough from those who do to feel comfortable suggesting that he’s not a very good human being. And I’m not going to lie – I like to see good people succeed and bad people fail. Our society too often rewards all the wrong qualities and in doing so makes clear to up and coming generations that it’s okay to be a stone cold psychopath, an abuser, a thug, a bully, a punk, a douchebag, so long as you win. That ideology makes us a worse culture and it sucks a little bit of the humanity out of us every time we cheer on a superstar that we wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) leave unattended in a room with our children.

So today, I’m celebrating. I know, the guy finished SIXTH, and how many golfers would give their left nard to do that at the Open? But in his mind, he failed, and he’s going to carry that mounting weight around on his back until the next major, when hopefully it will happen again.

I invite you to celebrate with me. It’s okay to hate what is worst in our culture and to rejoice when those who’d drag us down with them don’t succeed.


  • This is nonsense. Tebow is a good human being and a crappy athlete. Tiger is a crappy human being and a great athlete. It’s silly to confuse the two.

    • This requires me to buy that a guy who endorses Focus on the Family and allies himself with the homophobic agenda is a “good person.” “Barking ignorance” is the best I can do for you there.

  • We have had an exchange on this topic so I don’t want to go down that road at this time. I will say, though, i have great sympathy for Elin (did she go back to her maiden name?): I do not hear or read anything negative about her and my take is that Tiger took her out of a comparably sheltered life into the world of Tiger Woods and then really did her wrong. And Lindsey Vonn seems to be a decent person but she is older, more worldly wise and certainly the info on Tiger is available. I wish her the best.

    I will also say that I do not believe this is what is worst in our culture. I saw the HBO special on Dick Cheney the other night and Tiger is a distant last place to that guy.

    What I do find interesting is “But to what extent has the process of building the nicer, cuddlier Tiger 2.0 neutered the essential edge he needed to dominate the game of golf?”

    I am (approaching past tense) a fan of Tiger. I love watching people who are really good at what they do and he belongs with the best.

    Is the transition to Tiger 2.0 what is going on. Certainly something changed since the 9 iron. But I have always thought he over swings and for years have thought he should have his driver mounted and hung over the mantel in one of his houses. What I saw today I found encouraging. I think it is a sign that he is less aggressive but many of the problem were that he was short on his irons. I think the kinder gentler Tiger needs to add a quarter to half an iron to make up for the lack of intensity and he may be fine. What I always loved most about his game was his ability to judge distance. When he is on it is beautiful to watch. I think his memory is too big a factor in his club selection.

    Factoid: it was pointed out that Tiger has never won a major where he was not tied or in the lead after 54 holes. In that sense, this is the old Tiger.

    Phil Mickelson really appears to be one of the nice guys and it was and epic win for him. Celebrate that instead.

    • And Lindsey Vonn seems to be a decent person but she is older, more worldly wise and certainly the info on Tiger is available.

      Yeah. She’s in a position to make an informed decision, huh?

      I will also say that I do not believe this is what is worst in our culture. I saw the HBO special on Dick Cheney the other night and Tiger is a distant last place to that guy.

      Good point. Perhaps I should amend to “what is bad in our culture.” Also, when Cheney dies, party at my place and you’re invited.

  • I’ll be there.

  • Not only is Tiger a real jackwad but Rory is sure having a lot of hard for him to explain trouble ever since he started palling around with Tiger. Hmmmm. For all those admirers who argue that it’s all about the golf and not at all about being a decent human being, I contend you cannot separate the two, not really.

  • Fnay

    You know piddle about Elin. She could be a gold-digging harpie or she could sneak out at night and wearing a cowl, roam the streets washing the sores of the poor and homeless. You don’t know. You’re imposing your morality on a situation with incomplete knowledge.

    The only people who get to do that are us professional bloggers. You shouldn’t try it at home. Now put down the keyboard and back away slowly. Leave this to professionals.


  • Dang this is a tough sandbox to play in. I’ve watched people get beat up pretty badly at this site and am pretty careful about what I say and how I say it. Thought I had an absolutely brilliant analysis of Tiger’s Open 🙂 only to be taken to task for asides on Elin and Lindsey. Like I said, a tough sandbox. But fun!

  • He absolutely overswings. At the end of some swings he’s almost facing backwards. That swing is probably what has torn his knees up, and Foley’s changes have just made it worse. Now he looks like he’s hoeing the garden.

    The question is whether he would have gotten the record without his little vacation. It’s always problematic when athletes miss some of their most productive years–Ali, Johnson, Jordan. What would they have done?

    I think the marital break up and the major drought were entirely coincidental. If I’m not mistaken, the drought started before the 9 iron. I think he was on the downslope already. He’s been playing golf since he was two. He’s simply worn out. He’s a 38 year old golfer with the swing count of a 48 year old. He’ll still win more majors, but four is looking more and more out of reach.

    People like the idea that there’s some connection between his bad behavior and his good but not great golf, Instant Karma and all that, but I think it’s specious.

    By the way, if cute little Erin were a loud-mouthed unattractive woman like Helmsley, would she have some many defenders?

    • @ Beth but replied here because something Otherwise said applies as well.

      “For all those admirers who argue that it’s all about the golf and not at all about being a decent human being, I contend you cannot separate the two, not really.”

      I would argue that it is more about being true to your nature. I don’t think Roger Clemens is nearly as good as a nice guy but Phil Mickelson is not nearly as good as an SOB. If hanging with Tiger goes against Cory’s nature then it makes sense he would be starting to have trouble. Not who he is. I could compile a fairly long list of examples to support this.

      I also believe Tiger’s downward turn began before the 9 iron. But I do not think he is worn out although he is accumulating an interesting array of minor and not so minor chronic and recurring injuries.

      When Tiger first came onto the scene — and maybe after winning an early tournament, I read a story about him visiting a friend (maybe somewhere in Colorado) and actually caddied for the friend on a round of golf. I remember thinking what a humble and real gesture for one of the richest athletes in the world. But then Tiger started hanging out with MIchael Jordan and Charles Barkley in Vegas — I think I even remember reading something about them mentoring about how to be a rich black athlete in America. I also remember thinking that hanging with those two was inconsistent with who I thought Tiger was at that point. I predicted trouble at that point. It would be interesting to see if that correlates with his downward turn. What if the Vegas playboy is not who Tiger is and, not being true to his nature is what lead to the downturn? On the other hand, “You are who you pretend to be, so be very careful who you pretend to be.”

  • Very well said. Love it. I have never liked Tiger.. I will print this and carry it with me and show all the idiots who dote on sporting prowess as the be all and end all- no matter what the off field behaviour.

  • Pingback: Dear sports establishment: STOP CRAMMING TIGER WOODS DOWN OUR THROATS | Scholars and Rogues | Progressive Culture

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