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The 10 Travails of Tiger

June 23, 2003
June 23, 2003

Table of Contents
June 23, 2003

Sports Illustrated Bonus Section: Golf Plus

The 10 Travails of Tiger

And now...Leaving Aside the Zipper-Melting Swedish Nanny, 10
Reasons Why It Kinda Sucks to Be Tiger Woods Right Now:

This is an article from the June 23, 2003 issue Original Layout

1. He's losing majors.

With his nowhere U.S. Open finish, Woods hasn't contended on a
Sunday back nine since March. That was a war and a half ago. For
the first time in four years his famous coffee table doesn't hold
a single major trophy. This was his worst finish in the U.S. Open
(20th) as a pro. This year's Masters (15th) was his second worst
as a pro, and the 2002 British Open (28th) was his worst as a
pro. And look who he's losing majors to! A cellphone salesman
(Rich Beem), a Canadian lefty (Mike Weir) and a man whose swing
is a one-man game of Twister (Jim Furyk). Who woulda thunk Fluff
(now Furyk's caddie) would win a major this year before Tiger
did?

2. His knee still hurts.

Despite surgery in the off-season, Woods said on Sunday in an
unusually candid locker-room session, "I don't go as hard [at my
swing] as I used to." He sometimes feels pain in his left knee
when he swings hard. It's why he hasn't played as much (this year
Furyk has played 15 Tour events to Woods's eight) or practiced as
much as he usually does. "I can't stay out there [practicing] for
four or five hours like I used to." Woods thus becomes the first
man to play more golf in ads than in tournaments.

3. Golf is too dependent on him.

The game needs to get into a 12-step de-Tiger clinic. Television
ratings are halved when he's not playing. Tournament directors
weep when he doesn't show up. Nike's entire golf line depends on
his playing well. TV has got the worst case of the Tigers. On
Sunday, for example, when Woods was 13 shots behind Furyk, NBC
showed his every shot on the par-3 17th. And now, on videotape,
Furyk holes out from the fairway!

4. Godzilla is getting punked off the tee.

Do you realize that Woods ranks 30th in driving distance on Tour?
Either he's teeing off with a spatula, or something stinks on
Tour. Woods thinks players are using illegally hot drivers with
faces like trampolines. "I favor testing every [player's driver]
every day," he says. Uh, when you're done with golf, can you
start on baseball?

5. Everybody wants him to walk on water hazards.

"People expect every shot Tiger hits to be a miracle shot, the
next one more amazing than the last," says the player who knows
him best, neighbor and fellow Tour pro Mark O'Meara. "That's got
to be hard."

6. He may have already peaked.

Not that it was a bad peak. The man won four straight majors
between June 2000 and April '01. The further we get from that
run, the more unthinkable it seems. "There are some things I
don't do as well as I did in 2000," he admits, "but there are
some things I do better." Like, suddenly, perspective.

7. He's stuck trying to live up to an impossible standard--himself.

Once, during one of his pupil-popping streaks, a TV commentator
said, "This young man might win every tournament he ever enters."
Some people believed it, but Woods wasn't one of them. "Some of
the good shots I hit weren't as great as you guys made them out
to be," he said. "And the poor shots weren't as poor as you said.
When I win, it's, 'Oh, he can never lose.' And then I don't win a
couple, and it's, 'Are you in a slump?'" Just for the record,
when Jack Nicklaus was Tiger's age, 27, he started a run of 12
majors without a win. It didn't make Jack a dull boy. He went on
to claim 11 more.

8. He's not the Kid anymore.

For the first time Woods can talk about marriage and a family
without getting a facial tic. "I can definitely see myself there
someday," he said. "I'm looking forward to it." Actually, this is
a good thing--the first sign that he doesn't want to be the
center of his world forever. "Let's face it," Woods said, "when
it comes right down to it, your success is minuscule compared to
the success of your kids." And when is Project Pop planned? "I'll
let you know."

9. A 63-year-old man is looking tougher all of a sudden.

That would be J.W. Nicklaus, whose 18 professional majors seem a
little more Everestish, no?

10. Turns out, he's human.

Not a god, not an immortal, just a man as addicted and tormented
by the stupid game as any of us. "What I like to do is go out in
the evenings and play six, nine holes by myself," he said on
Sunday. "That's when golf is the coolest."

And you thought you had nothing in common with Tiger.

B/W PHOTO: JEFFERY A. SALTER

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com.

Not a god, not an immortal, Tiger is just a man as addicted and
tormented by the stupid game as any of us.