Dear Tiger: An Open Letter to the King of Swing

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Dear Tiger:

I would ask you how you're doing, but any idiot who's glanced at a newspaper or overheard a snippet of water-cooler gossip knows you're doing just fine. Quite a feat you pulled off in Louisville this weekend, shuttling Bob May back into obscurity and cementing your reputation as a golfer for the ages. If I were wearing a hat, I would take it off to you.

But on to the more important stuff. I'm sure that everyone in your entourage (not to mention the hordes of media hacks now hot on your trail) is telling you you're the best thing that's ever happened to golf. And that may well be true. But to be perfectly honest, Tiger, you need to keep all this praise in perspective. Because let's face it, being the best thing that ever happened to golf is well and good, but it doesn't mean you can just sit back on your cleated laurels and count your greenbacks.

This is a time for action, my friend. For self-improvement. After all, your dad has been telling us for years that you're going to "do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity." And that's a tall order — I mean, we all know your putting skills are getting better, and that your long game is unparalleled, but Earl's talking about you edging out Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. for first place in the all-time fantastic person sweepstakes. So as you contemplate that little task, I wanted to send you a few pointers that may smooth your path to all-encompassing greatness.

1. The name: Look, Tiger is fine if you're 10 or even 24. But at some point you've got to revert to Eldrick. There's no dignified way to make your way through middle age with a handle that encourages people to pour you a glass of milk and cut your meat for you. Need proof? Ask Fuzzy.

2. The girlfriend: I'm sure she's a lovely young woman. But the leggy blonde thing is such a cliché these days. If you're in this for the long haul, you might consider upgrading — either to an actual supermodel (Kate Moss may be available, and now that she's gained a bit of weight, she could probably double as your caddy in a pinch) or to someone with more ethnic cachet, like Jennifer Lopez or Mercedes Ruehl.

3. The parents: Your mom, who studiously avoids the spotlight, appears to be a lovely woman. (And that's not coincidental.) Your dad, on the other hand, reminds us all a little bit too much of Bela Karolyi. Whenever old Earl appears on a talk show, praising you to the skies and harping over his overwhelming influence on your game, I half expect him to launch into proud reminiscences of Kerri Strug's bone-crunching, gold-medal-winning vault at the '96 Olympic Games. There's something about your dad that makes me nervous. Nothing I can put my finger on — just keep an eye on him. If he starts restricting your calorie intake or encouraging you to "play through the pain" as your pelvis snaps in two, run, don't walk, away.

4. The demeanor: It's time to ditch the fist-pumping. Yes, we understand you are an excellent golfer. We also understand that you are proud of your myriad accomplishments. And we respect you. We celebrate your victories with you, and break putters with you when you lose. But if you have any interest in seeing that respect evolve into full-fledged admiration and fondness, you'd be well-advised to drop the whole self-congratulatory post-win schtick. It's grating. And Americans, pompous as we are, prefer to see our sports heroes pocket their wins with a certain degree of humility. Think of Grant Hill, or Bernie Williams, or Mario Lemieux. We love these guys — and they never have to remind us of just how great they are.

So there you have it. The four-step plan to Becoming a Better Person. Take what you think will be useful, and discard the rest. In the meantime, congratulations, keep on swinging those clubs and fighting the good fight. We're all kind of proud of you, in an aw-shucks, punch you in the shoulder, American sporting event kind of way.


Jessica Reaves,