The Biggest Story Ever

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2010, 1:01 am
The Dalai Lama must be scratching his head again.

The Tibetan spiritual leader only recently discovered who Tiger Woods was after being asked about him in an interview.

We can only imagine his reaction around the water cooler at The Office of His Holiness when the news hit today that Woods is returning to golf.

“Somebody, please, what is the Masters?”

The news that Woods will return in three weeks at Augusta National was beamed around the world with such force that it’s a wonder it hasn’t knocked satellites off their orbits.

The Tiger Woods story is a worldwide fascination because his golf will be about so much more than sport now.

Woods may not be bigger than the Masters, but his story is.

Woods may not be bigger than golf, but his story is.

Woods now towers over every player and storyline in the history of the game.

That’s because people who don’t understand or follow the game care more about how his story turns out than they’ll care how this Masters turns out.

The Masters is known for its spectacular finishes, but this one will be remembered for the spectacle of its start. And we’re not talking about Jack Nicklaus’ and Arnold Palmer’s ceremonial first tee shots Thursday morning. If this was any tournament but the Masters, Jack and Arnie might need helmets to protect themselves from the stampede that follows the opening of the front gates.

Ernie Els accused Woods of being selfish when he staged his public apology during the Accenture Match Play Championship. There will be players who see the same trait in Woods’ decision to return at the Masters, where he will be more protected from entertainment media and unruly fans who could make his return something ugly.

“Whenever he comes back, it's going to draw a lot of attention to that tournament and the focus is going to be on him coming back,” Stricker told media at Doral last week. “I don't know if Augusta would like that to happen, you know? To turn it into Tiger's comeback instead of the Masters tournament itself.”

Stricker is Woods’ friend, but he’s right.

If Woods doesn’t win the Masters, it might take an incredible finish to make anyone remember this Masters as anything more than Tiger’s return.

The curiosity over how Woods will respond to the challenge of rebuilding his life and reputation reaches beyond the drama framed between the ropes of a golf tournament. That's why his story is bigger than the Masters. He is Lord Jim come to life, novelist Joseph Conrad’s shamed protagonist seeking heroic redemption after a scarring betrayal of duty. Though the young British seaman at the heart of that classic story wins back his honor with the ultimate sacrifice, the story ends badly for him. The compelling lure of Tiger’s tale is the possibility that it ends well for him.

Though Woods is certain to be the target of cruel stupidity, there are millions of folks who will root for his redemption, who will eagerly encourage a man’s sincere desire to be something better.

For some, this is only about golf, about the scores Woods will post.

For others, it’s about emotionally investing in the journey Woods is about to resume, taking the steps with him because that is what being a fan means to them.

Woods is finally about to re-embark on golf’s greatest journey, the pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 professional major championship victories. Woods has four to go to tie the mark, five to surpass it.

While Woods doesn’t owe anyone outside his inner circle an apology, the idea that he’ll reach outside it anyway could change the nature of the journey. Devoted fans want to like the stars they’re following. They want to like the men who break sport’s most esteemed records. It’s the difference between making the journey something to celebrate or something to dread.

Woods changes the nature of the journey by inviting us along in some meaningful way.

Millions will be tuned in when Woods makes his start at the Masters, many of them to see if they like the guy who’s coming back.

Woods’ story will be bigger than the Masters, and stories thrive on the nature of the characters who bring them to life.

Will Woods be a protagonist or antagonist?

The answer begins at the Masters.
Getty Images

Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

Getty Images

Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

Getty Images

All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”

Getty Images

First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”