"Racism makes or breaks the man"
I have always resisted the temptation to read books about guys like Tiger Woods. As an amateur sports writer myself you just know they are going to be sterile propaganda accounts because sports hacks know if they write anything negative about the worlds most famous stars they will lose their access, as was definitely the case with Tiger, the recent tawdry revelations as succinct evidence of that you can get. Everyone knew what he was up to but they were muzzled. But that was then and this is now and any man knows you must lever leave your wife alone with your mobile phone or your world will indeed coming crashing down. And if your misses has a seven iron in her hand your going to be sleeping in the car tonight. And if your bloodstream is full of the tranquiliser Vicadin and you're almost asleep at the wheel you are going to hit something hard like the wife does you. Never humiliate a woman. Now is the time to read about the golfer Tiger Woods.
The driving violation Tiger was eventually charged with was for 'not being in control of a vehicle' in his private driveway in a private gated village, incurring a fine of $164 dollars. But the losses would be far greater elsewhere for Tiger, his reputation as shattered and in pieces as his rear window of his sports utility vehicle on that eventful night, allegedly smashed by his wife and his utility club for his misdemeanours.
Sadly this book is not the one for the big reveal, just a rushed collection of tabloid stories stuck together for a quick releases to cash in from the big event from Steve Helling, a sportswriter that doesn't seem to have had much access to Tiger over the years. There is nothing new here guys, bar the odd titbit that non American readers may not know about Tigers philandering. There is a lot of filling out with stories from Earl Woods, Tigers bear of a dad, and pops various misdemeanours with the ladies, a promiscuity that tiger inherited, like father, like son, the books narrative suggesting Tiger was living his fathers life vicariously after dad got sick and died. The latest count is 11 women said to have had sexual relationships with Tiger during his marriage. Maybe deep down Tigers insecurity was of being black and needed to be accepted by his white piers, in what ever slice it came to feel accepted in the big scheme of things. At least he didn't have to show his birth certificate to prove he is American!
The book begins with that quite sickly statement Tiger made to the press in late 2009 to own up to his 'indiscretions', his big sponsors dropping out one-by-one like the women did the woodwork that claim to have slept with him over the years. There were quite a few of both. Whereas Nike stuck with him, Elin Nordegren, his stunning Swedish wife, didn't, humiliated by the shear volume of lovers and the locations they met, Tiger so blaze near the end that he was canoodling with girls in a 'titty bar' not a mile from his Florida home where the infamous car crash happened. By that point he clearly wanted his sex addiction to be exposed so he would have to change his destructive lifestyle, common to the big stars with an insatiable ego. His dad liked the ladies and so did Tiger, the heart of the narrative here. His choice of women angered some in the black community, their number one sportsman that had beaten all manner of prejudices to make it to the very top of a white middle-class sport just wasn't interested in a black wife or girlfriend, never mind the hoars and waitresses being of his race, preferring trophy blondes instead, another handful of sponsors already lost there.
This is a biography though and Tigers early years couldn't be more of a contrast to the seedy philanderer he has become today, an only child bought up in a conservative black family with a military father and caring mother. Dad had passed up a potential professional baseball career to go to college as his father had banged into him that education was the most important thing outside of family for a Blackman to make it in life, soon living his sporting dreams vicariously through little Tiger, a golf club forced into the little Tiger cub's hands almost at birth. Earl rose to Green Beret level in the army and very disciplined with his son, tough but fair says his friends, Tiger almost in agreement at that claim in later interviews.
A two-year-old Tiger famously appeared on a TV show in 1978 with Bob Hope, his swing as good then as it is now, incredibly shooting a 48 on a nine hole par municipal course just three months later from that appearance. Right from the early days it was clear Earl was grooming his kid for stardom, just as Richard Williams did in tennis with his girls, a point made in the book throughout on the Woods story. By 16 a shy and gauche Eldrick Tont Woods was winning every age group championship going but had also witnessed his father's divorce and womanising first hand.
Earl pushed more on the importance of education to his son and made sure he went to college to further grow his brain and his golf chances, Stanford University the chosen sporting seat of learning. Here he soon dominated the college golf scene and the sponsors were beginning to take note and form a line, Tiger signing huge multimillion dollar deals with Nike ($40 million) and Titleist ($20 million) before he even made his professional debut, causing animosity in golf circles, but the youngest ever winner of the prestigious US Amateur Open at 18 backing up that phenomenal potential. He was as good as he was black, and handsome too, irresistible to women and American sports sponsors alike, and as we discover in the book, money and blondes his two favourite temptations in life. Insert golf 'double entendres' here!
That confidence was quickly repaid when he got a hole-in-one in his first ever pro tour event, the Milwaukee Classic seeing the Nike swish ball trickle up and in on the 205 yard par 3. But he finished 66th as the pack devoured his inexperience. He also chose to play Shoal Creek in that first year, a notoriously racist golf course from the bad old days, barriers being kicked down already by Woods, part of his mission. But the following tour events saw the nerves dissolve, 11th, 5th, 3rd and then victory in his fifth ever US tour event at just 20-years-old.
In 1997 Tiger became only the 5th black player ever to be invited to The Masters, incredibly the first full black member only admitted to the club seven years earlier in 1990. Anybody who knows sports knows what happened next, Tiger winning by a record 12 shots at a record 18 under. Emotional scenes would see a tearful Earl whisper to his likewise son: "I'm proud of you (stroking his head). Let it go son, let it go. Tiger replied: "We did it pop, We did it". 13 more Majors, 71 US tour victories and a total of 128 wins would follow thereafter. He would be world number one for a record 264 weeks, and regain it for another two year run after Vijay Singh nipped in when Tiger was injured, black players holding the top two spots for an incredible seven years. Gold had changed a lot since the Tiger pounced.
Although the book recaps Tigers monumental career this is also about a black man in professional sport as it is the man. The author is also black and Tigers journey to the top is just as important to him as it is Tiger. We hear Tiger was called the 'N 'word at school and had rocks thrown at him by a group of white guys, something a white guy can never contemplate how hurtful that is. It's also interesting to note how mixed the other players were towards Tiger when he was finally caught, even though they clearly knew what was going on through dressing room gossip over the years. The main reason they kept quiet was because a lot of them were probably doing the same thing to some extent. Now was clearly the chance to use that to break his game so they could win something.
Elin's relationship, of course, is explored here, the pretty Swedish nanny introduced to him by Jasper Parnavik, the volcano dust eating Swede and fellow tour pro. We learn she had witnessed first hand the attention Tiger was getting from the women out and about before they married and so she must have know the problems to come, perhaps why she signed a $20 million dollar prenuptial that would give her the full whack and then staggered thereafter. To be fair she could have dragged out their marriage for the full twenty million but settled for her house in Sweden Tiger bought and $15 million so far. But all women deep down cant resist the pull of an easy life for a charismatic man that can take away their troubles and rent. Most women would have taken Tiger for every penny. As we have seen with the appalling behaviour of Imogen Thomas, certain young women will seek out a celebrity to secure that kiss and tell payday for a rainy day, 50k better than having to get a job in River Island when your celebrity wanes. You have to remember that Tiger at his commercial peak was the first sport star to earn one billion dollars over his lifetime. No wonder women were throwing themselves at him. Whether Elin married him because what's the worse that could happen was $20 million we will never know.
On the whole this is an uninspiring read that recaps what most people already know about what went on, Helling, not really the man that knows. It's a concise dentist reception read that will tell you all you need to know about Tigers life and the trophies he won but it won't really explain why he self-destructed or who he lays the blame for that. The most controversial of all comment that black men are more promiscuous is neatly sidestepped. I suppose the best thing about this is it is only 250 pages short and so the perfect summer read if you one of those people who prefer the tabloid style of writing and nothing too heavy for the beach. What it isn't, is the definitive Tiger Woods story.