Commentary

British tabloids feast on Woods

Updated: July 14, 2010, 1:16 PM ET
By Wright Thompson | ESPN.com

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- My assignment today was to buy $12 worth of newspapers, sit in a pub at 10 in the morning and spend some time reading Tiger "putter" jokes and looking at soft-core pornography.

Ah, breakfast with the British tabloids.

Some people wanted to watch Tiger Woods' annual Open Championship news conference to see how the U.K. attack-dog journalists would handle such fresh meat. Not me. I wanted to wait on the papers. I like almost everything about newspapers (except, obviously, working for one): the way they feel in your hands, the insider terms like double-truck and slot, the crusty press room guys. So, I didn't want to listen to the questions. I wanted to see the headlines.

There's a newsagent tucked in beneath the West Port, the last remaining medieval gate to the city. They've got a wall of papers, from the stodgiest London journal to the most randy tabloid. Whether you want a detailed story about the performance of the pound against the yen or a photo of a topless 22-year-old, they've got you covered.

I bought a dozen of them.

Across the street is the Whey Pat Tavern, a place where locals mix with Old Course caddies. They bring me some coffee and a bacon roll and I spread out the papers. Most cover the recent British soldier deaths extensively, as well as breathless reports on the Raoul Moat shooting and suicide. On the sports page, there is, inevitably, a joke about Tiger Woods changing putters. That's the common thread. It's not the only big news of the day -- Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson receiving honorary doctorates got better play in many papers -- it's just something to snicker at.

The highlights:

The Daily Mirror

[+] EnlargeBritish tabloids
Wright Thompson/ESPN.comA headline from The Daily Mirror.

Headline: Two-faced Tiger avoids all the hazards

Art: A photo of Tiger slipping on a sweater. A totally innocuous moment, but in the context of the headline, it looks like he's hiding.

The Lede: Tiger Woods shot even par yesterday. Double bogey on the answers to the personal questions. Eagle on the shameless plug for Nike, the company that makes money out of using his dead dad's voice to sell golf gear.

The Headline, II: Now Tiger chases birdies, not chicks

The Line: Woods even cheated on the women he was cheating with. That's like staging a robbery and then turning to your accomplice and saying: "All right, gimme everything you have too."

The Scotsman

Headline: Cagey Tiger ignores elephant in the room

The Lede: Andrew put the Saint in St Andrews but someone perceived as a sinner has arrived at the gates of the town, expecting to be shown grace by the Scottish people.

Slight literary redemption for that terrible lede: Five years ago, when he last competed at the Open in St. Andrews, Woods was barely married. The same is true now, sadly.

The Daily Record

The Design: A most wanted poster with the FBI logo.

The Headline: I'm out to Hoover Up: Not even FBI probe can stop prowling Tiger from setting his sights on the greatest prize in golf

The Daily Mail

[+] EnlargeBritish tabloid
Wright Thompson/ESPN.com. The Daily Mail.

Back Page Teaser: Tiger ends 11-year love affair *

Just below: * with his putter

Headline: Woods Dumps Old Faithful for a Swish New Model

The Lede: Tiger Woods, who has been receiving therapy since news of his extra-marital activities rocked sport, sounded like a man from Putters Anonymous yesterday.

The Daily Express

Headline: Tiger's loved one given elbow

The Scottish Sun

The Cover: A graphic close-up photo of the cop shot by rampaging Raoul Moat. "Blinded Bobby David Rathband told yesterday how the last thing he saw was Raoul Moat's eyes -- as the silently starting 'monster' blasted him in his own."

Backpage Headline: Tiger: I'll be a saint

Page Three: There's a naked woman, grinning like she's making change at a coffee shop. I quickly turn the page, glancing around the pub, wondering if human resources have cameras set up in the Whey Pat. The other customers don't seem concerned.

The London Times

This is how you know things are bad. Even The Times is getting in on the fun. Tiger got ripped in a column by, of all people, Lynne Truss, who is famous for writing a book about grammar. Maybe she was offended by his dangling participle. (The obvious joke, based on a mark of punctuation, is probably over the line.)

The Headline: No escape from the Tiger confessional as he admits: 'I am having an affair … with another putter'

The Lede: If anyone thinks there's not much comedy in Tiger Woods' situation these days, they should attend one of his news conferences. "Tiger," they asked yesterday (and I'm paraphrasing only slightly), "would winning at St. Andrews this week set you on the road to spiritual redemption, and by the way, is it true you've changed your putter? What's it like to have your entire life in ruins, but more importantly, how does it change things that they've moved the 17th tee?"

Scottish Daily Sport

So, this sounds like a paper that might cover golf, right? Well, it turns out it's almost straight porn. Dozens of naked women. Ads for phone, er, services. They do have a Tiger story, way in the back, past the lewd Abbey Clancy paparazzi pool-side shot and the "Ashley Cole girl secret kinky strip picks."

There's no way we can even publish the headline.

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at wrightespn@gmail.com.

Wright Thompson | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) is a senior writer for ESPN.com and The Magazine. He has been featured in seven editions of Best American Sports Writing and lives in Oxford, Mississippi.