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Matthew DeBord Headshot

Tiger Woods Is So, So, So Much Bigger Than Golf

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I will not talk about Tiger Woods' mistresses, some of who actually seem like pretty nice women whose feelings were genuinely hurt by the Striped One and his randy ways. I will not talk about Tiger's perhaps soon-to-be-ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, who has apparently taken off the gloves along with her wedding band in preparation for an epic assault on Woods' bank account. I will not talk about Nike, which is in the unenviable position of having to stick by Woods no matter what, given that Phil Knight has built a major golf brand from scratch entirely on Tiger's back. I will not talk about Phil Mickelson, who has to be somewhat bewildered after finishing the official 2009 golf season toe-to-toe with Woods, with many predicting that all of 2010 would be a replay of their final round duel at the Masters.

I will not talk about Woods' 155-foot oceangoing yacht, with its many bedrooms and its 4,000 nautical-mile range, because that's just the sort of mighty pleasure craft-slash-getaway barge you want when it all goes to hell and you need to head for blue water (that's why you shell out millions for the sucker and unsubtly christen her "Privacy"). I will not talk about The Golf Channel, which through gritted teeth has been forced to treat the Woods' scandal as if it were the Kennedy assassination, all the while recognizing that his absence from competition will crush their much-touted early-round tournament coverage next year. I will not talk about the legions of golf journalists who are currently, sheepishly, defiantly playing dumb, as if the reputations they lucratively crafted as "insiders" didn't mean that they should maybe, just maybe, re-read Charles Pierce's 1997 GQ story about a libidinous Tiger and conjecture that a young cat does not so easily abandon his old tricks as he ages. I especially will not talk about Tim Rosaforte, the alleged insider's insider, a veteran of decades of golf coverage, a man who cannot begin a televised sentence without mentioning a "highly placed source," who nevertheless didn't see this one coming.

I will not talk about Dr. Tony Galea, Woods' (and many others') Dr. Feelgood, a physician of questionable ethics who appears to have found his trough with well-agented jocks under pressure to live up to salary negotiations, sponsor contracts, and fan expectations. I will not talk about the assorted celebrity lawyers who will now descend on this whole appalling mess to perform their black sorcery and cart off their wheelbarrows of cash. I will not talk about the tabloid media, which...well, the National Enquirer is rarely wrong. I will not talk about Dubai, a fantastically once-rich but now broke country that may be just the place for a fantastically still-rich Woods to hide out. I will not talk about Jack Nicklaus, by all accounts a levitating mentor to Tiger, but also a staunch family man, who certainly wasn't looking forward to having his record of 18 professional majors eclipsed, but whose heart must now be broken, for Jack loved the game and surely loved what Tiger had done for it. I will not talk about these disturbing nightclubs in New York and Vegas, where a degenerate sport-celeb-worshipping parody of human manhood routinely gathered to swill overpriced vodka and encourage the pimping of young women by members of their own sex. I will not talk about Accenture, Tag Heurer, AT&T, or any of Woods' other corporate sponsors, who were right to commit millions to the idea that Woods was a model of discipline, yet were hustled like bumpkin-in-the-big-city tourists in front of a three card monty table by IMG.

I will not talk about IMG, because any day now I expect the Earth to open and swallow it whole. I will not talk about the crisis PR and law firms that have reportedly hushed Woods' behavior over the years. I will not talk about sexting. I will not talk about that Ambien haze. I will not talk about whether you should be using your golf course design company to employ fixers from your childhood, or to serve as a front for what is essentially your own private sex-tourism agency. I will not talk about the private jet. I will not talk about Charles or Michael, whom you aren't talking to. I will not talk about Jesper Parnevik and quaint Nordic chivalry. I will not talk about how Tiger can't save Christmas.

I will not talk about the legacy of the game. I will not talk about the Tiger Woods Foundation. I will not talk about Earl. I will not talk about Tiger's mom. I will not talk about the immense respect for sheer, unvarnished achievement that Woods' fellow players have bestowed on the man.

But I will talk about golf. Specifically, the delusional notion, put forward by many pros, commentators, experts, and pundits, that the game is bigger than Tiger and will survive, recover, thrive. Um, no. The game is in no way bigger than Tiger. In fact, Tiger is so immensely, hugely, ginormously larger than mere golf that golf may never recover from this monumental fall from grace. You could go nuts and say that Tiger is golf, except that he's even bigger than that. Tiger, truth be told, is bigger than Tiger. He is, or was, so mega, so money, that he transcended even himself. The complexity of this scandal, the depth of psychological and emotional trauma that must have been and may still be present to enable it, is of Hegelian dimensions. More than a decade of intricately orchestrated deception. Nixon wasn't this good. The Oswald-acted-alone coverup-istas weren't this good. The cleaners who secreted away the dead aliens and their crashed spaceship in Roswell in the late 1940s weren't this good.

We were serially informed pretty much from Woods' victory at the 1997 Masters, his first major, that he transcended the game, and that that was good. Until now, when he doesn't, and it isn't. There is dismay in witnessing Woods laid low, reminiscent of lines uttered by Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost, upon seeing the defeat of confederate demons, heroic rebel angels like shimmering Beelzebub, dispatched by an angry God:

But O how fall'n! how chang'd/ From him, who in the happy Realms of Light/ Cloth'd with transcendent brightness didst outshine/ Myriads though bright.

I've seen Tiger Woods stride a golf course and strike golf balls several times, and it was a special thing. He did outshine the myriads though bright. A frightening yet seductive luminosity emanated from the guy. Professionals athletes are often glistening and grand; yet Tiger glowed as if fueled by a solar blaze within. Has he now been cast from a kind of paradise? He has. Was his paradise a prison? So it would seem. Hubris is tragic, but it does move the plot forward. So let's talk about golf. But let's not pretend that golf is somehow a vast and majestic thing. It's a game. And what has happened to Tiger Woods is real life.

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