I keep wanting to really like Tiger Woods. I see him bring a PGA event to the nation’s capital on the Fourth of July and announce that all military personnel will get in free, and I applaud. But on the course, the guy continues to leave me cold, and continues to fail to measure up to Nicklaus in terms of grace and sportsmanship. I long for the scene where, Nicklaus-like, Woods loses a hard-fought tournament and smiles broadly, shakes the hand of the victor like he is genuinely happy at the victor’s accomplishment and like he had a darn good time playing anyway even if it hurt to lose…and then goes on to the media interviews and says, first and foremost, that the other guy just took everything Tiger had and outdid him and was just too tough to beat. But that never happens. When Tiger loses, it’s all about him. All about how “cra**y” he played. (A word that STILL shouldn’t be said deliberately on TV — a vulgarity that never would have consciously crossed the lips of Bobby Jones for public consumption.) All about how HE, Tiger, threw the tournament away. And even upon reflection, in the case of the Masters yesterday, the best Tiger could come up with in praise of Zach Johnson was something about how Johnson “did what he needed to do, just sort of grind it out and….” Not: “Wow, Zach just really stepped up to the plate and posted a number in tough conditions that I couldn’t catch up with.” Instead, in effect: “Well, we didn’t do much to challenge him, so he just sort of grinded it out.”
I first became a Nicklaus fan in at the U.S. Open in 1971 when he lost a playoff to Lee Trevino and, while Trevino did a jig on the green and basically made like a clown, Jack stood there smiling with a hand extended, patiently waiting for Trevino to calm down and looking for all the world like he was sharing in Trevino’s joy even though disappointed for himself. And it was a familiar scene: Jack Bear-hugging Tom Watson’s shoulders when Watson beat him, or Jack waiting to congratulate Tom Weiskopf when Weiskopf beat Jack to win the US Senior Open at Congressional after his fellow Ohioan had fallen so many previous times to Nicklaus.
But Tiger? When he loses, it’s because he played cra*py. Give me a break. And while we’re at it, give Tiger a censor.