Commentary

Tiger Slam II continues to sizzle

Ten new questions and a sample of reader mail on the world's greatest golfer

Originally Published: December 23, 2009
By Rick Reilly | ESPN The Magazine

Getty ImagesStory of the decade? Hardly.

It's one of the damndest things I've ever seen. When has an athlete ever free-fallen from so high to so low so fast? Does "never" ring a bell? It's the equivalent of catching Bing Crosby in a drag bar.

Ten more questions before we get to the Woods mail, which has made the mail in "Miracle on 34th Street" look like a slow Tuesday in August:

1. How did he get caught?

Being cheap. Everybody knows Tiger has a reputation for being cheap as single-ply toilet paper. He had an affair with Los Angeles cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs for more than 31 months, according to Grubbs. It was on her phone that a voice sounding a lot like Woods left the infamous "Take your name off your voicemail" message. That message became public when Grubbs gave it to US Weekly magazine, for a reported $150,000. Billionaire Philandering 101 tells you to set your mistress up in an apartment, set her up with a salary, keep her happy and quiet. By all accounts, Woods didn't do that. Another woman, Jamie Jungers, told the News of the World that Woods didn't tip and that once, when she asked for money when things got tight, he refused. Next thing you know, she's on the "Today Show" and "Dateline" spilling secrets. A few hundred thou saved here, a few hundred mil lost there.

2. Would you agree that when a porn actress such as Holly Sampson comes out and says (in a widely-viewed online video) that yes, she did have sex with you at your bachelor party but that she was not a "mistress" -- thus trying to distance herself from the whole scandal -- you've hit rock bottom?

I hope so.

3. Do you agree with sports writers who call this the No. 1 sports story of the decade?

No. The No. 1 sports story of the decade was Tiger Woods winning all four majors in a row (Tiger Slam No. 1). And if it wasn't that, it was Lance Armstrong overcoming 14 tumors to win seven straight Tour de Frances. And if it wasn't that, it was Michael Phelps winning 14 gold medals over two Olympics. Because if we're going to let a guy cheating on his wife overtake those three unthinkable achievements, then we really aren't sports fans after all.

4. Where is the world's most famous athlete anyway?

Your choices: A) In his guest house; B) On his yacht; C) With a friend; D) In the Bahamas; E) In his main house. There have been reports saying he's all those places. Where he's not: in front of a TV camera, explaining himself, asking forgiveness. And you have to wonder why.

5. In light of what he's admitted to and what we know, should Woods have been voted AP Athlete of the Decade?

Yes, yes, yes.

6. When Tiger Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, e-mails The New York Times and asks it not to run its story about Woods receiving treatment from an HGH-using Canadian doctor, and the Times refuses, is that what Steinberg gets for doing absolutely no media any favors for a decade?

Yes, yes, yes.

7. Are there no doctors in Florida who do the fairly common platelet-rich plasma therapy (my producer on "Homecoming" just had it done on his knee), so that Woods had to fly in a controversial doctor from Canada, Anthony Galea, to work on his knee in Florida, where Galea is not licensed?

No, there are.

Nobody's been this publicly pilloried since Hester Prynne.

8. Could Galea be in trouble for that?

Not if the Florida Highway Patrol is in charge. They seem to have the curiosity of toe lint.

9. Do you believe caddy Steve Williams' statement that he knew nothing about any of Woods' transgressions, despite the fact he usually stays in the same rented house, hotel or villa as Woods, to say nothing of hanging with him eight hours a day on the course?

Yes. And I also leave cookies and milk for Santa.

10. Could anybody ever have worse possible luck with a cover than Golf Digest with its "10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger," which featured Woods "caddying" for Obama, and hit stands around the same time as the accident?

Yes. Jon Gosselin, on the cover of Parenting, with "10 Tips to Help You Get Through the Tough Times."

And now a taste of the Tiger mail, as promised:

We all thought that it was Jack Nicklaus' record that Tiger was chasing. Now we find out he was after Wilt Chamberlain's. -- Kevin Nelson (Naperville, Ill.)

Rim shot.

He's gonna catch unbridled Hell next year. Especially from me next time he comes to the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte. They're gonna have to escort me from the course but Mr. Woods will most definitely hear what I have to say. When you hear someone scream CHEATER in the middle of his backswing, please think of me. -- Paul Watts

Wow. Take things personally much?

If Tiger gets angry now when he pushes a drive to the right or lips out a putt, it [will draw] cheers. The next time Steve Williams snarls at a fan, he's going to get shouted down by the crowd and it's going to get ugly. When Tiger breezes by the crowd with that dead stare, it will be a challenge for TV not to show the people flipping him off. Any guy who hasn't cheated and kisses his kids goodnight will find himself pulling for anyone but Tiger. He wanted Privacy, it's going to get lonely. -- Steve Lovich (Ashland, Ore.)

This has got to be one of the huge questions that Tiger and his people are wondering now: What is it going to be like when he finally goes back on Tour? Are golf fans going to stay their polite, gently clapping, root-for-every-golfer-who-comes-along selves? Or are they suddenly going to become foaming Hamburg soccer fans? I'd say only one in 500 fans will yell something about the mistresses, or their imagined version of what happened that night, or their own one-liners, like, "Tiger, since you're not using it, can I have your little black book?" But when you consider that Tiger routinely gets 10,000 fans watching him on any hole, that would still be 20 people. And this is a guy who might go months without hearing a snide comment. He is also a guy who can hear a camera click two towns over. All that is going to be bamboo shoots under the fingernails for him. But this, too, shall pass. Remember what they used to yell at Kobe Bryant? Now, almost nothing.

You're a little over the top, Rick. Gee, a rich athlete on the road 3/4 of the year who is unfaithful to his wife -- stop the presses! He'll be better off divorced so that he can live as he pleases. -- Steve Veshosky (Tampa)

You're probably right, but even at 1,000-to-1 odds at saving his marriage, isn't it worth trying?

About Tiger, two lessons learned here: A) Call the local police department phone number, not 911. Calls not made public. B) Don't get married. -- Udar (N.J.)

It's scary you know that much.

Hell with letting the public in my life. I would go play all of the tournaments that I usually play and just take the BS and the checks from winning and my sponsors. The public will just have to get over it. My life isn't their business, bottom line. -- John Braxton (Kansas)

Unless he apologizes, publicly, he can forget signing any significant new sponsors. He might as well be wearing an anthrax suit. Nobody will touch him until then, unless it's GoDaddy.

Why are Nike and the rest of them standing by Tiger? What kind of message are they sending? Tiger screwed up and needs to learn the hard way not to do it again. Once he has cleaned up his act, they can re-sign him. I will not support those companies and will not be buying their products! -- Jim Carroll (St. Augustine, Fla.)

These companies are in a very sticky situation. Yes, it's awkward now to have Tiger Woods' name on their product. In fact, it's misery. But this guy will be back. I will bet my house and yours that he will be back better than ever someday. He will start winning everything in sight again. He will thump Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors. He will blow by Sam Snead's PGA wins record of 82. He will figure out his life and be the comeback story of the next decade. And if they dump him now, he'll sign with their rivals. I'm not saying it's morally right, I'm saying it's reality.

Your recent comments regarding Tiger Woods were rather pathetic, stating "to bring down someone as powerful and private ..." What a crock; the fact is that Tiger brought down Tiger! If he truly were private, he would not have been chasing and carousing and cheating on his wife. This has nothing to do with being human and everything to do with being faithful, honest, and having integrity especially with his wife and children. Someone once said that with great power comes great responsibility. Tiger has failed miserably in this regard and you reap what you sow. -- Bob Moline (Pittsford, N.Y.)

I guess. But this man has been hung by his thumbs all over the world for almost a month now. He has gone from one of the most respected and honored people in the world to a laughingstock. Yes, he cheated and, allegedly, in epic proportions, but just a little reminder: He didn't rape anybody. He didn't kill anybody. He didn't rob, beat or shoot anybody. He committed acts of infidelity with willing women. Nobody's been this publicly pilloried since Hester Prynne.

Bill Clinton disgraced America, but Tiger devastated millions of adoring kids, including me and I'm 68. - Ken Pierce (McKinney, Texas)

Really? At 68? You can be "devastated" by a guy having extramarital sex? Do you even HAVE cable?

Like they said on the old "The X-Files" television series: "Believe the lie." And we sure did, didn't we? -- Dave Conlon (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

We did but we had so little choice. Woods was so intensely guarded, gave such shallow interviews, allowed so few people into his life, we were all just stuck with such limited views of him -- the glorious image on the golf course, the heroic images on his ads ("I AM Tiger Woods") and that really cute Christmas card.

And it wasn't just us. The PGA Tour jumped on board with both feet. And now they've got a problem: A Tiger Woods Scorched Earth Tour with no Tiger Woods. "You can't ever build your whole house on one brick," said PGA Tour star Tom Lehman. "That's what the Tour did. You can't really blame them. It's kind of a Catch-22. You can have a guy that is SO good and makes things SO much better, it's like everybody else doesn't exist. But now what? The Tour has to try to market some of the other really good players it has. It has to try to build a house of cards that doesn't fall apart when one card falls, but I don't know. It might be too late."

I am 22 years old and have been a fan of Tiger's since he burst onto the professional golf scene in 1996. He was the reason I first picked up a golf club. I will never view him the same. No longer will I shrug off his profanities and temper on the golf course or his lack of connection with the fans who have given him so much and always stand by him. I suppose this is why they say you should never meet your heroes. -- Ryan Levine

Not always. If your hero was, say, Peyton Manning, you'd be delighted.

How much are we all LOVING [Phil] Mickelson right now? -- JK (Carlsbad, Calif.)

Mickelson hasn't made a single public comment of condemnation, nor support. Things that make you go hmmmmmm.


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