Did the Caddyshack commercial announce the introduction of a "new Tiger?" Does the new Tiger just wanna have fun? Will the drought in majors continue this year? Interesting questions to ponder, prompted by Tom Boswell's engaging column in today's Washington Post (registration). Some key bits:
Consider Tiger's reaction to shooting 74-74-73 to finish the Bay Hill Classic last week, missing a chance to become the first man to win the same tournament five years in a row. It was the first time in his life Woods had ever shot three straight over-par scores in a PGA Tour event......... What was he going to do about it? Hit balls at the range until his blisters burst? Go home to his Isleworth mansion and putt on the living room rug 'til midnight? With the so-called "fifth major" -- The Players Championship -- this week and the Masters in three weeks, what was the world's most famous athlete going to do?
"Have a beer," said Woods. And he left Arnie's joint with a grin, but without hitting one more lousy golf ball.
Boswell's story suggests that Woods has modified his mindset from a singular focus on winning major championships to one with more balance, more emphasis on enjoying life. This could foretell disaster, but then again, there is a model for the more balanced approach: Jack Nicklaus.
Nicklaus won major pro championships over a 25-year period, from 21 to 46, in large part because his whole life was satisfying -- from golf to family to business. In his prime, he played half as much as others, yet won twice as often. As Chi Chi Rodriguez quipped, "Jack is a legend in his spare time."
As he approached 30, the undisputed King of his period, Nicklaus figured out how to keep his appetite for his sport fresh while avoiding the premonition that he'd left the rest of his life under-furnished. Now, at 28, Woods is doing the same.
Perhaps a page has been turned in Tiger's life. Though maybe not, as Nicklaus has always been a role model for Tiger. Either way, I'm not betting against him. The Masters is just a couple of weeks away, and Tiger can find his game -- its in his bones. Stay tuned.
Great story by Boswell, read it all.