Commentary

Connections between Tiger, Dr. Seuss?

Originally Published: November 24, 2010
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

It is difficult to imagine what life must be like for Tiger Woods off the golf course -- both pre- and post-scandal -- but you can almost picture the following scene.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
CAMORRIS.comWalking a tightrope in life is never easy.

Woods is spending a little quality single-dad time at home with his two children. They ask him to read a story and so the man sometimes referred to informally as the "Cat in the Hat" saunters over to the bookshelf and pulls the first Dr. Seuss tome within arm's reach. He begins reading aloud, getting through a few pages until being overcome by an apparitional feeling.

The book is about ... him.

It isn't, of course, but "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" -- first published in 1990, when Woods was 14 years old -- draws some eerie yet intriguing parallels to his tale. Described by one reviewer as "a guidebook to the journey of life," the author's final project prior to his death is often handed out to recent college graduates as they enter the "real world."

On the one year anniversary of a single-car accident in front of his home that led to shocking public embarrassment, this book could also help to initiate introspection from the former No. 1-ranked golfer.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

Off to a good start, huh? From the time Woods turned professional in mid-1996, he owned an innate ability to not only dominate golf tournaments, but dominate with flair. He became the next generation's answer to Michael Jordan -- a face so globally recognizable that it transcended his sport itself -- along the way compiling 14 major championship victories and a reported billion dollars in total income. Never was the reason for those accolades summarized better than by Seuss.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
CAMORRIS.comBailing out your boat one bucket at a time can take a long, long time.

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed. You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

That "sometimes" lasted for the entire 2010 season. Following the scandal, Woods returned to compete in a dozen official PGA Tour events, never finishing better than in a share of fourth place. The best of the best appeared, well, just like the rest, looking extraordinarily ordinary throughout the year.

I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.
And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

Even if Woods had returned to the winner's circle in 2010, he would have lost more than he won. Multiple sponsors jumped ship in the days after this scandal broke and his legions of admirers were whittled down to a minority. For perhaps the first time in his career, an on-course Slump -- capital "S" courtesy of Seuss -- was hardly the worst thing taking place in his life.

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don't. Because, sometimes, they won't.

Spooky, huh? The good doctor continues ...

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
CAMORRIS.comReturning to the top of the mountain is always possible. But it takes lots of hard work to get there.

I'm afraid that some times you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you. All Alone!
Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.
And when you're alone, there's a very good chance you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

Tiger might not have been "scared out of his pants," but in a year that saw his highly publicized divorce from wife Elin, he was rarely seen in public away from the golf course, his gleaming smile often a thing of the past. For a guy who owns a yacht named "Privacy," he likely found out there's a big difference between that notion and -- as the author calls it -- "All Alone."

You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Even for a guy who has triumphed in more than one-quarter of his tournament starts, that percentage is asking a bit too much. The message remains, though. Woods struggled with the "Great Balancing Act" during this past season, but it would be too flippant to suggest he won't again find success on the course.

You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

Woods' personal mountain has always been Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 career major championship titles. As he continues to climb that mountain, he would be well served to consult Dr. Seuss' lessons from this guidebook on that journey.

Where will he wind up? That remains to be seen, but one year after egregious errors in judgment turned his life upside-down, Woods could do himself a favor by pulling this unlikely source of inspiration from the bookshelf and examining its overall message.

And if he emulates the book's final missive? Oh, the places he'll go!

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.