Backswing: Remember when Tiger Woods was the Chosen One?
A look back at one of the greatest Tiger Woods pieces ever by one of the best sportswriters in history.
Backswing is a new type of post here at Eye on Golf where we jump in the way back machine and take a look at an old feature or column that has to do with what's going on in the present. Hope you enjoy.
I've been wanting to do this for a while now -- go find old features and reinvigorate them for you. Point you toward them in case you missed them along the way.
Then Sports Illustrated's Gary Smith announced his retirement on Monday and Stewart Mandel reminded me on Twitter of the Tiger Woods piece Smith penned in 1996 and I couldn't resist it any longer.
Let's jump back in and take a look at a few of the quotes and quips from that classic, wonderful story by Smith back when, you know, Tiger hadn't won a major in 20 years.
First off, let me say how crazy it is that Woods has lived up to every drop of the hype lavished upon him. How many modern-era athletes can we say that about? Is the list Tiger and LeBron and that's it? It might be.
Here are a few things that stand out about the piece.
Earl Woods (Tiger's dad) said the following:
"He's the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."
Can you fathom Jordan Spieth's dad or Rory McIlroy's dad saying the same about their sons in 2014? I think I forget sometimes what a massive deal Tiger actually was. I forget how all-encompassing the hyperbole was for everyone involved.
"Everything," says Earl, "right there when he needs it. Everything. There can't be this much coincidence in the world. This is a directed scenario, and none of us involved in the scenario has failed to accept the responsibility. This is all destined to be."
My gosh. Madness.
Here's Tiger's mom, Kultida. She's the reasonable one!
"Tiger has Thai, African, Chinese, American Indian and European blood," she says. "He can hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child."
Here are Earl and Tiger on Tiger's innate greatness:
"His handicap" says Earl, "is that he has such a powerful creative mind. His imagination is too vivid. If he uses visualization, the ball goes nuts. So we piped into his creative side even deeper, into his incredible sense of feel." "I've learned to trust the subconscious," says Tiger. "My instincts have never lied to me."
This is what many folks have begun complaining about since Woods has moved to work with Sean Foley. "He's too mechanical," they say. They want the "my instincits have never lied to me" Tiger back.
John Merchant, a family attorney said this:
"Other athletes who have risen to this level just didn't have this kind of guidance. With a father and mother like Tiger's, he has to be real. It's such a rare quality in celebrities nowadays. There hasn't been a politician since John Kennedy whom people have wanted to touch. But watch Tiger. He has it. He actually listens to people when they stop him in an airport. He looks them in the eye. I can't ever envision Tiger Woods selling his autograph."
Then there's this bit of foreshadowing:
"The machine will win because no matter how complicated it all seems now, it is simpler than it will ever be. The boy will marry one day, and the happiness of two people will lie in his hands. Children will follow, and it will become his job to protect three or four or five people from the molars of the machine. Imagine the din of the grinding in five, 10, 15 years, when the boy reaches his golfing prime."
We're 18 years into the future now and that's pretty fascinating to look back on.
Smith ends with this dagger:
"We see a woman, 50-ish and Caucasian, well-coiffed and tailored—the woman we see at every country club—walk up to Tiger Woods before he receives the Haskins Award and say, "When I watch you taking on all those other players, Tiger, I feel like I'm watching my own son"...and we feel the quivering of the cosmic compass that occurs when human beings look into the eyes of someone of another color and see their own flesh and blood."
Go read the entire piece, it's just spectacular.
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