Different Tiger, Different Rules

June 27, 2004

O.K., here are the new Tiger Rules. Digest, then swallow.

Rule 1. No more quoting Tiger Woods saying, "I'm close."

Sorry, he's not close. Woods has gone eight straight majors
without a win. He hasn't been in the top 15 of a major since last
July. Tiger's a nice golfer, but at this point he's basically
Kirk Triplett.

Woods was at it again on Sunday at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock
after finishing in 17th place, 14 shots behind the kind of guy he
used to pick out of his teeth, Retief Goosen. He said, "So many
times I'm just one yard off."

Dude, you finished two shots behind an amateur.

Tiger hasn't broken an egg since he switched to Nike clubs two
years ago. Maybe he's not a yard off. Maybe he's a yard sale off.

2. No more gnashing of teeth over, Will Tiger get his swing back?

Who cares? Everybody in golf knows that Tiger's swing is more
blocked than a new Stetson. And there are more people than his
fired coach, Butch Harmon, who can fix it. "I've got 10 guys on
my staff who could get Tiger going on the right path again in 30
minutes," says a very famous swing coach on Tour. "It's obvious
to all of us what he's doing, but he won't make the change."

Earth to golf: Let it go. You can give a superstar a straw, but
you can't make him suck.

3. No more believing Tiger when he says he's "still in it."

Usually, he is not still in it. Lately, he is two bus transfers
and a $12 cab ride away from it. Last Saturday night he was nine
shots back and in 19th place after three rounds, yet he said, "If
the wind blows and I play a great round, I can still win."

Yes, if the wind blows the players' hotel over and everybody else
is trapped until Monday, then he'd win it.

4. No more superstar treatment until he gives us superstar golf
again.

Since he won the U.S. Open two years ago at Bethpage, Woods has
two crummy top 10 finishes in the last eight majors. That gets
you a courtesy car and a room at the Red Roof Inn, tops. Why
should Tiger get any more swag than, say, Fred Funk, who has
three top 10s in the last eight majors?

Even Nick Price has two, and he retired years ago.

5. No more excuses.

Tiger's got a million. At the 2003 Masters (15th place) he said,
"The grass being as sticky as it is, if you make a mistake,
you're going to pay the price." Sticky grass? This week he whined
about the hard greens. "That golf course got out of control," he
said.

Sell it somewhere else, cowboy. It was hard for everybody. In
fact, it was easier for Woods. The USGA syringed the 7th green
intermittently on Sunday, and his group was one that got it
freshly watered and he made par. So zipit.com.

6. No more gripping hole-by-hole TV coverage of Tiger's 74s.

Woods wasn't within a time zone of the lead last week, yet he was
on TV more than the Verizon guy. If Tiger is in the hunt, fine.
Otherwise, he's on the crawl at the bottom of the screen--deal?

7. Gong the goon.

Tiger's caddie, Steve Williams, has all the charm of a rhino with
an impacted molar. He doesn't speak to the media, rarely talks to
fans and has the look on his face of a man who'd very much like
to pinch your head off.

At Shinnecock he kicked a photographer's camera on Friday and
reached into the crowd to snatch another camera on Sunday. Once,
at a Skins Game, he took a fan's camera and threw it into a lake.
The man has ruined more pictures than Sylvester Stallone.

Hey, here's an idea: Fire the caddie and rehire the coach!

8. No more saying, "Well, Nicklaus went through this, too."

True, Jack Nicklaus had two long majorless stretches in his
prime--12 straight from 1967 to '70 and another 10 straight from
1976 to '78. But in those 22 tournaments he had six seconds,
three thirds and 16 top 10s. Oh, and in his career he had 19
seconds in majors, and Tiger has had one. You want close? Now
that's close.

9. Sigh and accept it: There's a possibility Tiger may have
peaked.

Woods gave us the single greatest achievement in sports history:
the Tiger Slam in 2000 and '01. If you've got the Hope diamond,
why keep shopping? Dwight Gooden peaked at 20. Macaulay Culkin at
10. Why can't Tiger have peaked at 24?

10. Stop with the sympathy.

Woods is 28, worth more than $200 million and engaged to a
Swedish nanny so freaking gorgeous that rivers stop and take a
look. O.K., he's got to deal with the heartbreak of sticky grass
now and again, but pardon me if we don't throw him a telethon.
Put it this way: Would he trade places with David Duval?

So those are the new rules. Break 'em and Steve Williams comes to
your door with a six-iron.

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER

Woods wasn't within a time zone of the lead last week, yet he was
on TV more than the Verizon guy.

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

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)