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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2011

COMMENTARY

Woods' story is what it is, for better or worse

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Richard Nixon called it the silent majority as he appealed to the unheard, unwashed masses for support. Tiger Woods would never call it anything because he would never beg for backing.

As Tiger likes to say, it is what it is.

Writers around the country have found out over the past year and a half that there are few hot-button issues that compare to Woods. A column on him, under whatever circumstances, is an invitation for dozens of e-mails to land in the inbox.

There is nothing silent about Tiger's critics. I wrote a piece recently from the Masters about Woods' swing changes and how he is confident he can return to his top form at the top of the golf world.

"Will you PLEASE write about somebody else? Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. I'm sick of it. There are other golfers, you know!!"

"The guy hasn't won in 16 months or so. Most of us have moved on. Why can't you?"

"Since he was caught with all those women and his personal life [collapsed] around him, he hasn't merited one-tenth of what you guys write about him."

And so on and so forth.

Of course, I was getting feedback from readers in spring of 2001 that they were tired of the all-Tiger, all-the-time format. And that was when he held the trophies from all four major championships, which was unprecedented.

There are other golfers, you know!!

No, there weren't. And, to some degree, no there aren't.

Nobody moves the needle like Tiger Woods. Check out the TV ratings. Or, better yet, step out onto Augusta National or pretty much any course where and when Tiger plays and check out the swarm of fans, the roars when he succeeds, the anguished groans when he doesn't. The majority isn't so silent out there.

Two Sundays ago, when Woods eagled No. 8 and then made a wonderful par save at No. 9 to come from seven shots behind and into a piece of the lead during the final round of the Masters, the cheers shook the windows of the clubhouse. And when he three-putted No. 12 and missed an eagle putt at the 15th hole, there was genuine pain from the gallery.

Few athletes have experienced the type of fall from grace Woods did. His sins were egregious, smugness didn't help, and he paid a stiff price.

Unlike a lot of jocks, Tiger embraced being a role model and much of that was forged around his sparkling public persona and an enviable family life. It carried over into a marketing brand that made him fabulously wealthy. We know now it was all phony. Some of his sponsorships went away. So did his wife. Someday, sadly, he's going to have to explain it to his two children.

But we are a sports nation of second chances. I see it being granted on the golf course; not so much in the inbox, where the vocal minority rules.

The winner of 14 majors has gone 11 straight without a win. He has not won anywhere in the world since Nov., 2009. But he shot rounds of 66 and 67 at Augusta. The swagger was back. Only the putter wasn't. The drought doesn't figure to last much longer.

Since the day he turned professional in 1996, and maybe since even before then, Woods has been the biggest story in golf. Isn't his climb back as compelling as his time at the top of the mountain and his tumble from the summit?

We don't know how the story will end, so we can't stop telling it.

It is what it is.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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