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THE INSIDE TRACK | COMMENTARY

Following the Tiger: View From Second Best

June 01, 1997|FRANK DEFORD | SPECIAL TO NEWSWEEK

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world. You're Faldo or Price or Els or Montgomerie or Lehman or Norman or ...

Whoever.

Whatshisname.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world and you thought you had a really rich contract with Titleist or Callaway or somebody, but now it's chump change compared to what HE's got.

But then, you're The Second-Best Golfer in the world and nobody even cares anymore what ball you're playing.

Or what you're wearing.

Or what you're hitting with.

Or, for that matter: what your name is.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and when the guy next to you on the airplane finds out what you do for a living, he asks you if you know him.

And what's HE really like?

And what's Fluff, his caddie, really like?

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world and when you arrive at the tournament, everybody tells you, isn't it wonderful because he will actually play here this week.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and while you're certainly not as stupid as Fuzzy, you are human, you're one of the boys, and did-you-hear-the-one-about, and now, can you believe this, all of a sudden, because of him, you're the minority?

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and you remember when you made your first 36-hole cut at a tournament, won $640 for finishing tied for 24th place, went out and applied for an American Express card.

Now you've moved up to the Platinum card, but all of a sudden he is the American Express card. And you can't even leave home without him.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and you hit it right on the button, perfect, right down the middle, 270 yards, and that leaves you only 60 yards short of him, because he kinda misplayed his drive.

But, anyway, you absolutely are The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and, after all, you're playing a game for mature, thinking men, where physical prowess is only part of the act, and you've miscalculated with the 4-iron and put the approach short in the trap, whereas he faded the 8-iron hole high, two feet straight in for the birdie.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and he doesn't even know you're the guy paired with him today, but already you're thinking that maybe, just maybe, he can't play a Scottish links course all that well the first time, in a few weeks, so there's at least one tournament all year I got an outside chance in.

If the wind really blows like a madman off the Firth of Forth.

And he doesn't like the food.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and your agent keeps telling you that if you just put a little snap in your best Arnold Palmer anecdotes, you can maybe get a shot on Leno or Letterman, or, for sure, a pop on Tom Snyder ... but he's already done Oprah and Barbara Walters and turned down the president.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, but away from a tournament city, you can't even get a good table at a steakhouse, because nobody knows you from the Culligan Man, but already his mother has a Q-rating higher than Tea Leoni or Craig T. Nelson and his father just sold his book to Miramax.

Starring Bill Cosby, no doubt. With Wilford Brimley as Fluff.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world and you finally got a deal to represent a resort in Florida with a certified PGA course and a mall. Already, though, he's got a deal representing a whole country.

Thailand.

I forget: Is Asia just a tour or is it a whole continent, too?

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, so why are you already looking ahead to the senior tour on ESPN2?

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and you've reached a point where maybe you win a couple more majors, and they mention you in the same breath as Snead or Nelson, but all of a sudden you realize nobody even heard of Snead or Nelson anymore.

Also, for that matter, now, nobody anymore ever heard of Jones or Hogan or Nicklaus.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world and nobody even stays still and quiet when you putt out, because they've got to run to get a good spot so they can shout "You The Man" louder than the other butt-kissing, putter-sniffing guys when he tees off.

You're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, longtime par-busting star of the tour, and suddenly you realize there is no "tour." It is just his show.

But then, you're The Second-Best Golfer in the world, and suddenly you understand: there is no second-best golfer in the world.

And, you're the second-best golfer in all the world of golf, and then you realize there is no golf anymore. It is just him, playing around.

It is just Tiger Woods.

Alone.

And this is the way it's going to be for another 20 years.

Mind if I play through?

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