Golf's leading lights have had to deal with The Tiger Question for nearly two months now, and with good reason. Tiger Woods is golf in the 21st century, and anybody who plays the game owes him respect, if not half their paycheck.
But what's interesting is how the reactions among pros, just like among the rest of us, are breaking down into two distinct camps. While the masses generally hew to either a blindly faithful "leave him alone!" or a blindly raging "Cheetah!" side, those in the business view the world with a touch more subtlety and understanding. Still, there's compassion, and then there's rebuke, and two major figures in Tiger's life have offered up both.
At the end of last week, Jack Nicklaus -- who has, to his credit, steadfastly refused to speculate on any element of Tiger's private life -- took on the issue of Tiger's pursuit of Jack's 18 majors. The way the schedule sets up, with majors at Augusta, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, Tiger could have cut two to three majors off the gap between them if he hadn't ... well, you know. But now?
"Certainly, this year with where the majors are ... he basically owns all three places," Nicklaus said in a conference call. "If he doesn't play this year, the chore will be a little tougher." In an interview with the Golf Channel, Nicklaus later indicated that while he didn't necessarily want to lose the record, he certainly didn't want to hold onto it just because Tiger was/is playing at less than full capability ... or not even playing at all.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Tiger's former teacher Butch Harmon, who leveled dead aim at Woods in an interview in Europe:
"The golfing public would like to see Tiger Woods do a press conference," Harmon said. "To stand there in front of everybody, take his medicine, be humble, be embarrassed, be humiliated, and answer the questions. But where the hell is he? We could find Osama bin Laden easier than we can find Tiger Woods. How long can you spend on a yacht in the middle of the ocean?"
Still, Harmon says he is on good terms with Tiger -- at least, as good of terms as anybody is these days -- and expects him to return before this year's Masters. He too noted that the majors set up well for Tiger -- no revelation there -- and hopes that Woods can get it together in time to make that run at 18.
No word, meanwhile, from Tiger. Surprise, surprise.
Nicklaus on Tiger's Major Chase [Links Life]
Tiger Woods has to face public humiliation, says Butch Harmon [Guardian]