The single most interesting thing about Tiger Woods is that his ex-wife once took one of his golf clubs to him.
And the reason that’s the single most interesting about him is that character is destiny.
That the ex-Mrs. Woods took a golf club to his car as he tried to speed away from her five years ago this Thanksgiving after his infidelity came to light says much more about his character than it ever would about hers.
Woods cheated on his then-wife, Elin Nordegren, with a bunch of other women, each of whom, unbelievably, thought she was the only other one. (Ladies, ladies, you know the old saying: If he cheats on his wife with you, what makes you think he won’t cheat on you? And by the way, I have a bridge to sell you.)
At first glance, it’s hard to understand what they saw in him. His is not “the face that launch’d a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium.”
But then, as Elizabeth Taylor once shrewdly observed, “there’s no deodorant in life like success.” And few have been more successful than Woods, hitting all those little white balls around all those greens over all those years for all those millions, donning all those green jackets and afterward answering all those questions with responses that promised much and delivered nothing.
With his equally bland moon face, Woods has always been the nonthreatening multiracial guy, unlike the biracial Colin Kaepernick, who packs real sexual heat in a chiseled, tatted form that is an actual work of art. No wonder white guys like Bob Costas were so admiring of Woods and the loftier-than-thou Roger Federer could fly in privately from Mount Olympus for his tournaments just as Woods would fly in for his matches. (Gee, I wonder who got custody of the Federers in the divorce?)
Off the links, Woods offered a smoke-and-mirrors act that enabled each observer to see what he wanted. Lots of people do that. But Woods used his squeaky clean image to enhance an advertising brand and make millions more. I’ll never forget my beloved aunt, Tiny – to whom I dedicated “Water Music,” the first novel in my series “The Games Men Play” – looking at a picture of Woods en famille in Life magazine and saying, “What a lovely family.”
Like the opportunistic Willoughby who dupes Marianne in Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” Woods made us all believe that he was in love with his wife, that he was this great family guy. Who knows? Maybe he did love her. Yet as Marianne would say, “But not enough.” And certainly not more than himself.
Why dredge up all this muck now? Because Woods has taken to the media after his feelings were hurt by a Dan Jenkins parody in Golf Digest that portrayed him as, among other things, a tightwad:
“Jenkins faked an interview,” he wrote, “which fails as a parody and is really more like a grudge-fueled piece of character assassination. Journalistically and ethically, can you sink lower?”
I don’t know about journalistically, since I have no intention of wasting a moment reading it. But let me comment on the journalistic ethics of such a piece: Writing a parody that is labeled a parody is not unethical. Whether or not it’s good writing is a question for literary critics. But then, it would not seem that literary criticism or ethics would be Woods’ specialties.
To his point about character assassination, though, it’s hard to imagine that Jenkins or any writer could do more to Woods than he has done to himself. As Hugh Grant said after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute, “There’s the third paragraph of my obituary.” Or as Richard Nixon – someone who knew something about character assassination – observed, “I gave (my enemies) the knife, and they twisted it in.”
In his rebuttal, Woods used the title “Not True, Not Funny.”
He might as well apply those words to himself.