Dear Tiger:The combination of Tiger's on-course irrelevance and Rory McIlroy's spectacular performance at Congressional has allowed the golf media to publically break off its love affair with Tiger Woods. Unfortunately, in some circles, it is being done with all of the maturity of the end of a high school fling. Examples include John Huggan's swearing he won't miss the three time US Open champion (and there is no better way to show you aren't going to miss someone who isn't competing that week than to spend 800 words proclaiming how much you won't miss him), Michael Bamberger's lament that being Tiger isn't that cool anymore (where he put Tiger's reluctance to be forthcoming to the media as a gateway drug to famous recluse Howard Hughes. If we have learned anything over the last two years, isolation from people is not Tiger Woods' problem) and Dave Kindred's contrast and compare of the former and current prodigy. Kindred's article included this illuminating passage:
I just wanted to get this off my chest. I know things haven't been great between us, so this shouldn't be a surprise. It's over.
I just can't deal with your moodiness, your inability to share, to really be a part of this relationship. I've tried and tried to get you to open up, to show you actually cared about me and the things I do for you. All I get are bland generalities and when I try to find out what is really wrong, you give me than death stare and shut down.
I want to be fair and tell you this before you find out from someone; I've found someone else. His name is Rory. I always thought he was cute, but he has opened up to me more in the last few days than you have in the last few years. I can just ask him stuff without it becoming a big thing. With you, I get more insight lately following your twitter feed than in person. And (I apologize if this sounds catty) he gives me what I need like you haven't in a long time.
I hope we can be cordial after this. Part of me will always love you, but I have to do this for me.
The Golf Media
There was a wonderful stammer to those words, a boyish attempt to say what he felt without saying it brashly. It was another reminder of what we have here and what we're not missing in any way. The first reminder came Friday evening, late in a press conference, when McIlroy told the assembled literati that he planned to go to a movie, "The Hangover Part 2." Of course, veteran movie-goers know that the new "Hangover" is exploitive dreck, a sequel unworthy of its parentage. But McIlroy's taste in film is not the point here. Point is, he shared a small slice of his life with reporters and when's the last time Tiger Woods did as much? Tiger, Tiger, out of sight. The greater point is, if anyone missed Tiger, if maybe millions missed Tiger, if all of freakin' Thailand missed him, I daresay this U.S. Open hasn't missed him a whit, iota, or even a tad.The Hangover Part 2? THE HANGOVER PART 2?!? That is what you are looking for? So not only are the members of the golf media sixteen year old girls with low self-esteem, they are cheap dates as well. In all seriousness, this Oprah-ization of professional sports reporting, the idea that every emotion or random thought an athlete has should be laid bare or there is a problem, is not a positive advancement of the reporting profession. I'd hate to see Huggan or Bamberger reporting on hockey, boxing or football (round ball or American); the amount of rejection regularly received by reporters following those sports might cause mass suicides.
To be fair, Team Tiger isn't without blame for the breakup. There is a famous saying that you don't get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the gallon. Someone had to be smart enough to tell Tiger to give the golf media just enough to keep them satiated and in love. Nothing particularly private, but something, anything to let them believe you love them a little. About your love of fly fishing for example. Or your preference for the blandest rock and roll possible (check out some of the performers at various Tiger Jams, Stevie Wonder notwithstanding). Or how about picking a couple of reporters and feeding them info. It wouldn't be the first time a newsmaker had a reporter in his pocket. Or how about this; either actually go ahead with the idea of treating those in the media better (something you included in your tearful comeback press conference public statement), or don't mention it at all.
Finally, a warning to Rory McIlroy (who is showing more maturity at 22 with his play than some reporting on him right now). Be careful. The media definitely loves you right now. But this has the whiff of a rebound relationship. They wanted to be with Phil Mickelson, but he couldn't come through enough to make it viable. Westwood, Kaymer and Donald were nice, but not exciting. You have all the tools right now, young, exciting, winning. But if you don't make 2011 your version of Tiger's 2000 (or, if Tiger makes a comeback to form), the next letter may be delivered to your doorstep.