Don't for a moment think that Tiger Woods is merely an American
phenomenon. In Britain we're obsessed with him too. Indeed, his
new status as a cultural icon here was confirmed last week when
the editor of one of our charming tabloids admonished his team
of investigative sleuths: "This Tiger geezer--find out who he's
sleeping with." (The Sunday Mirror quickly had supermodel Tyra
Banks vying for Woods's affections with golfer Kelli Kuehne:
WHAT A CATFIGHT! TYRA WARNS RIVAL: HANDS OFF MY TIGER.) You know
that you have attained celebrity status in Britain when that
happens. It is our ultimate accolade.
There are other noteworthy paeans, such as when writers and
editors gratuitously drop your name into the first paragraph of
a story on another subject. My favorite example of this
shameless name-dropping appeared in a recent issue of the
British magazine Golf Weekly. After Stuart Cage won the Cannes
Open two weeks ago, his performance was compared to Woods's at
the Masters. "They both showed the same steely determination,"
observed the magazine.
Yes, and the Augusta cineplex is comparable to the Cannes Film
Festival because both show movies.
It's not just the media that have been quick to exploit Woods's
victory. The golf authorities in Great Britain have seized on
his impact as well. Earlier this year the Royal & Ancient
announced that it would permit free entry to this summer's
British Open to anyone under 18. And the British PGA plans to
hold a national golf show next month that will be open to the
public. Both moves are designed to arrest golf's decline in
May 4, 1997
Woods will probably accomplish that without even setting foot in
the country. Perhaps recognizing this, Nike started airing its
"My Name Is Tiger Woods" ad on prime-time television last week.
A BBC program called Black Britain recently spotlighted several
young black players who had been sufficiently inspired by
Woods's performance at Augusta to give the game a try.
Yes, there is no doubt that Tiger is wonderful for golf
globally. There is one small problem with Tigermania, though, as
I was reminded during a conversation with my editor last Friday.
"I hope you've booked a flight for when Tiger next plays," he
That remark was enough to make me nostalgic for the days when
Nick Faldo ruled the world. Then, I only had to come up with a
different story angle every other week.
Derek Lawrenson is golf correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph.