If you’re not still battling
a severe case of Tiger Fatigue, let
me recommend a new book I just finished.
It’s called Unplayable:
An Inside Account of Tiger’s Most Tumultuous Season, and I think most any golf addict or Tiger-ophile will
find it to be something of a page-turner.
Author Robert Lusetich, golf columnist for FoxSports.com, spent the entire 2009 season tailing Tiger; the result is a mother lode of
insights into life on the PGA Tour, the World No. 1 golfer and the small, tight
circle of intimates that constitutes Team
Of course, when he pitched
the book to Simon and Schuster, Lusetich had no
idea about the whole other secret life Tiger
was living in the shadows. He sold
the publisher on a book about Tiger’s incredible
return from knee surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate
ligament, enabling him to resume his quest of surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.
Like virtually all other Tiger-watchers in the media, and most
of Tiger’s inner circle, Lusetich was
oblivious to the infidelities.
Indeed, having journeyed to his
native Australia, where Tiger won
the Australian Masters in November, Lusetich
was at home in Los Angeles, putting the finishing touches on his manuscript,
when the news broke of that fateful car crash in the wee hours after Thanksgiving
that changed everything.
As shocking and unseemly as
the revelations about Tiger’s "other
life" have been, Lusetich
did not completely rethink and rewrite the narrative of the book. He still told the tale of Tiger’s ’09, only with a new final
chapter entitled, "The Reckoning."
Like most members of the
who is a colleague and pal of mine, was embarrassed to have to admit that he
knew nothing of Tiger’s secret life,
nor had he ever seen anything that gave him reason to be suspicious.
"My view of Woods – admittedly from
observations made at the distance of press conferences or media scrums after
rounds but also interspersed with the occasional brief off-the-record
conversation – was that even though he is flawed, he is essentially a
good guy," writes Lusetich.
not cooperate with the book. Lusetich did seek
his cooperation through agent Mark
Steinberg, but "Steiny," as Tiger calls him, said, "No."
Lusetich has no idea if Steinberg,
who routinely rejects similar requests out of hand, ever bothered to discuss
the matter with Tiger. Lusetich now can’t
help but wonder if Steinberg perhaps
had concerns about what a book of this type might eventually turn up.
Official cooperation or not,
duly notes that over the course of 2009, Tiger
was both "kind and generous with me."
What I especially enjoyed about
Unplayable were some of the details
about Tiger’s relationships, with caddie
Steve Williams and other players,
picked up over the course of the year. A few examples:
On Phil Mickelson:
-- ...(Steve) Williams confirmed
what most inside golf’s highest circles long knew: Woods didn’t like Mickelson.
-- After Williams got in hot water for calling Mickelson a "prick" during a trip home
to New Zealand, swing coach Butch Harmon,
who had been fired by Tiger years before
and now works for Mickelson,
remarked that golf was a game of "honor" and said he didn’t believe Williams’ comments reflected Tiger’s feelings about Mickelson.
presumably grew after making that last remark. He, perhaps more than anyone, knew that Woods had had worse
– much worse – to say about Mickelson,
who Woods considered to be a phony
whose public and private personas didn’t exactly gel.
On the Masters:
After shooting a lackluster
70 in the third round, Tiger was furious,
and he headed straight to practice tee at Augusta
National, trailed by his small entourage. First, he chewed out his caddie, Williams, who slipped away to find a sandwich, leaving swing coach Hank Haney alone with Tiger.
remained and bore the brunt of a tirade.
"Tiger was just livid and Hank had to sit there and take it,"
Witnessed by a handful
writes, The incident led to stories that
angered the admittedly thin-skinned Haney. Haney
would over the next week send text messages to several writers admonishing them
for stories suggesting he was on thin ice with Woods.
On Hank Haney:
Among top swing gurus, the
long knives were often out for Haney.
"My philosophy as a teacher," Haney writes, "is to teach my students to become their own best teacher
by getting them to understand the flight of the golf ball and how it relates to
the swing, with emphasis on swing the golf club on their own correct swing
Innocuous enough, except that virtually every swing
guru in golf believed Haney’s ideas
were wrong. (Butch) Harmon became the chief antagonist, telling anyone who’d
listen that Woods was ruining his
career, though he was hardly alone in that belief.
A Tour winner, a disciple of 1980s swing guru Jimmy Ballard, told me that Haney had cost Woods countless majors and "should be strung up for what he’s done
to the kid.
On Tiger’s awareness of fans around him:
One of the misconceptions about him was that he was
robotic on the golf course.
The image served him, se he perpetuated it, but it was a myth. Woods
knew precisely what was happening around him and was extremely observant. When an Asian man with a very
effeminate voice called his name several times from outside the ropes at a
tournament, I’d assumed Woods was
too far away to have heard. Later,
I discovered that he’d not only heard him but described him perfectly.
On Tiger’s sexcapades:
None of Tiger’s infidelities shocked Lusetich any more than the one
that occurred at during the Buick Open,
which he won thanks to shooting 63-65 on Friday and Saturday. As it happened, the whole thing was
going on while Lusetich
and Tiger were staying just a few
doors apart in the same Marriott
Courtyard in Flint, Mich.
The sometimes pornographic actor, Joslyn James, whose real name is Veronica
Daniels, alleged that she had been having a three-year affair with Woods. Perhaps that was true, perhaps it wasn’t. But after reading text messages she
said were from Woods, I had no doubt
that she’d spent Thursday night a few doors down from my room in that Flint
Woods was indeed
in room 201, as her text messages alleged. He’d flown her in, as he often did with women during
tournament weeks, for a brief rendezvous, most of them lasting two or three
nights. James said Woods warned
her he needed to get up at 4:15 a.m. for the following day’s round, yet she
said after they’d had sex earlier in the evening, he’d had trouble falling
asleep and called her back to his room for another tryst just a few hours
before he had to wake up. She
estimated that he’d had perhaps two hours of sleep by the time the unsuspecting
Williams drove their car to the
hotel’s side entrance.
Contrary to YouTube legend, it was CBS golf analyst/jokester David Feherty,
not Tiger, who launched the fart
heard millions of times on the internet. Lusetich
knows because he was out on the course at the Buick Open, standing under a shade tree with Feherty, when the whole thing
Feherty then gave
me the news that he’d eaten beans for lunch and his stomach was grumbling. "I’ve got one locked and loaded in the
chamber," he said, like a proud parent.
and Woods had long engaged in farting
contests on the course...
Feherty sensed that
it was his moment to pounce. While
Woods bent over to stretch, Feherty launched
a sick-sounding fart from nearby, so long and loud that both Woods and Williams immediately looked over to him and began laughing. Unfortunately, Feherty had forgotten to turn
his microphone off...
In the days and weeks after Tiger’s car crash that brought his
world crashing down around him, Lusetich was busily trying to piece together the story that
was being kept largely under wraps by IMG, the golfer’s management group. Where was Tiger? Why wouldn’t he
talk to the cops?
sank to his lowest ebb. His wife,
whose financial security had been sweetened in the immediate wake of the
scandal in a desperate attempt to keep her from leaving then and there, was
devastated by his betrayal. She
consulted divorce lawyers and didn’t want him under the same room. All of her husband’s golf trophies,
which had filled the family home, were removed.
Woods moved into
another home at Isleworth
and changed his phone number. He
was in "the fetal position," according to none source, and didn’t want to talk
to anyone. Long-standing friends,
including Charles Barkley and Mark
O’Meara, publicly lamented the fact that they could not reach Woods. Steinberg drew
much fire from many of Woods’s
friends who were unable to get through to him. "He became very reclusive, he was depressed, devastated, and
most of all, I think, embarrassed," said a source close to Woods.
On what might have motivated Tiger to cheat:
There is some speculation
among Tiger’s circle that, unable to
control his sex addiction, he essentially self-destructed, almost deliberately
allowing himself to get caught.
But the friend also offered another view, one echoed
by others I’d spoken with about Woods’s
marriage: that it was never the idyllic union it seemed.
"He was a late bloomer. Even when he was at Stanford, he was kind of
nerdy. Then suddenly his body
changed and he matured into this confident guy and he made up for lost
time. What I’ve always wondered
is, Did he get married too early?
I think he just got caught up in the idea of getting married. I think he jumped into it too soon."