Tiger up for major stepMarriage will change life, not game
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
Now we know why Tiger Woods didn't want to play golf last Monday after the light ran out on his Presidents Cup playoff with Ernie Els. And as excuses go, who could begrudge him this one? There will always be another Presidents Cup. But how many times would he get to play Tarzan to exquisite Elin Nordegren's Jane in a wilderness paradise with a blood-red African sunset to melt the hardest heart?
And now the most famous golfer in the world is to wed the most famous nanny since Julie Andrews. Well, at least since Fran Drescher.
Who knew that Tiger was such a romantic? A starry night? A simple meal cooked over a campfire at an animal preserve? A rock the size of Gibraltar burning a hole in his pocket? And a Swedish goddess to share it all with?
A game of golf with Els is a pretty cool gig but, sorry Big Fella, the playoff can wait.
For a long time now, it has been a matter of "when" not "if." From the time Woods was introduced to Elin at the 2001 British Open by Jesper Parnevik, he has been a marital statistic waiting to happen.
Now, of course, comes the speculation. Since Woods currently is without a major championship for the first time since 1998, it already has occurred to some observers that his head is not entirely in the game.
That argument ignores the fact he won five tournaments and nearly $7 million US this year and is an even-money favourite to win his fifth consecutive PGA Tour player of the year award. With all that was supposedly on his mind on Sunday, he looked a lot like the same old predator against Els, both in winning his singles match and holing everything he saw in the playoff.
So, don't write off Woods just yet. He has accomplished more in his first seven years in pro golf than any man in history with a single-minded intensity unmatched in his sport. He has done that unfettered by outside commitments. That doesn't mean a wedding ring will change things, but even he acknowledges there will be a period of adjustment.
Woods has never made a secret of his desire to become a husband and a father. He understands that it may have an impact on his game until he is able to get the life changes sorted out in proportion to his profession.
"It's just a fact of life for people in any walk of life," he said at the 2000 U.S. Open. "I play golf and right now, I have the freedom to focus entirely on my game if I choose to do that.
"But it won't be always like that and when the time comes, I'll be able to handle it."
The other players can only dream. A year ago at the British Open, the oft-married Nick Faldo, a former world No. 1 himself, offered his perspective.
"I think the other guys out here had a nasty shock when Tiger arrived on the scene with his total commitment, mentally, physically, every way.
"If they want to change things, either he has to dent his own confidence or somebody has to dent it for him."
Told that Woods had a new and serious love interest, Faldo smiled and cracked wise.
"Who is she and where is she and how much can we pay her?" he said with a cackle. "We've got to wear him out somehow."
So far in his career, Woods' greatest challenge has been his pursuit of history. In golf, that means chasing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major titles. Nicklaus has long believed that the only thing standing between Woods and all his records is the uncertainty that will accompany the changing priorities as Woods matures and takes on the family life.
"Tiger has an unwavering desire to be the best. I wanted to be the best, too," Nicklaus said at the Masters this past spring. "But he really has pushed everything else aside to do that. And more power to him.
"Do I think I could have been a better player if I would have pushed everything else aside and focused on it? Yeah, probably could have been.
"But do I think I would have missed something in life? I'm far more happy with my wife, my five kids and 16 grandkids than worrying about a golf tournament.
"Golf is a game. It's a good game and it has been great to me. But it wasn't the only thing in my life and it won't be the only thing in Tiger's life, either. I got married when I was 20 years old and by the time I was his age, we had three kids."
He had also won 24 tournaments, including six majors. Even though Woods hasn't won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open, he has eight in the bank and 46 worldwide victories.
So, don't lose any sleep over Tiger's future, either on or off the golf course. Chances are, he'll win everything he looks at next year, just to prove he still can.