Still Searching Although it's well-crafted, this attempt to penetrate the inner Woods fails to deliver on its promise

May 04, 2003

IN SEARCH OF TIGER: A JOURNEY THROUGH GOLF WITH TIGER WOODS
by Tom Callahan
(Crown Publishers, 229 pages, $25)

Chekhov may not have known golf, but he did remark that if you
pull out a gun in Act I, you had better fire it before the final
curtain. Similar wisdom holds with book titles. Promise a search
on the cover, and it's imperative to find what you're looking for
by the last page.

Longtime Golf Digest columnist Tom Callahan is the latest in a
growing line of writers who have attempted to penetrate the
well-guarded fortress of Tiger Woods's inner self, and his effort
is a noble and fascinating one overall, but it would be far more
satisfying if it delivered on its titular pledge.

Callahan, who has covered Tiger's career since there barely was a
career to cover, seems to be in search of larger game than even
the most prized golfer in the universe, and it is the perspective
he picks up along the way that makes his book more than just
another recap of Woods's accomplishments.

"Golf," writes Callahan, "is a father's game." He's captivated by
the way fathers and sons connect through the game, and when it
comes to fathers and sons and golf, Earl and Tiger Woods are the
Holy Grail.

In exploring their relationship Callahan examines the major
milestones in Tiger's career--turning pro, his first Masters
victory, the four corners of the Tiger Slam--and juxtaposes them,
cleverly and reflectively, with tales of other fathers and sons,
from the Morrises (Old and Young Tom) and the Nicklauses to the
Duvals, the Elses, even Ken Griffey pere et fils. Each family, in
its own way, offers an insight into Tiger and his evolution, just
as each provides a comparative yardstick by which to measure his
brilliance.

Callahan's best observations, though, lie elsewhere. Close to
home, there's his analysis of the shadow presence of Tida Woods,
Tiger's steel magnolia of a mom, whose maternal advice includes,
"Go after them, kill them. Go for their throat." Further afield,
there's the riveting quest that opens the book, a quixotic hunt
for Tiger Phong, the Vietnamese soldier who twice saved Earl's
life during his Green Beret years and the man for whom young
Eldrick Woods would be nicknamed.

By the end of Search, Tiger may be a shade more in focus than he
was at the beginning, but is that enough to make the book a
success? Callahan isn't exactly shooting blanks, but in his
failure to get at the inner Tiger, the book ends with more of a
whimper than a bang.

COLOR PHOTO: CROWN PUBLISHERS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)