Golf

Attitude change key to Tiger turnaround

Tiger Woods (Getty Images)
Tiger's going to need a good sense of humor in the coming weeks.
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Robert Lusetich

After more than 20 years of covering everything from election campaigns to the Olympic Games, Robert Lusetich turned his focus to writing about his first love: golf. He is author of Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season. Follow him on Twitter.

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Tiger Woods has quite a sense of humor.

Which is just as well because as we inch closer to the anniversary of his demise-by-fire hydrant, he’s going to need one.

Tiger Woods scandal

ONE YEAR LATER

Thanksgiving 2009 is not a time Tiger will soon forget. We consider the effect on him as we look back at the scandal that rocked Tiger's world.

In the coming two weeks, he’ll be forced to relive the sordid deconstruction of his life because we in the media never forget anniversaries.

And, be sure, neither will the brigade of skanks seeking to extend their 15 minutes of what in this society passes for fame.

Those closest to Woods say he has been deeply embarrassed by the tawdry details of his sexual escapades. They believe he went oh-fer-2010 because of an abundance of shame as much as a lack of game.

I suspect there’s a lot of truth to that, because there really isn’t another satisfactory answer as to why the putts suddenly stopped dropping for him.

But Woods showed signs of turning the corner in Australia. I say that not so much because the late rally Sunday propelled him to fourth place at the Aussie Masters — his best finish of the season — but because of what happened at a dinner he attended earlier in the week in Melbourne.

At a crowded function room at the Crown Casino, Woods shared the stage with Shane Warne, a now-retired Australian cricketer whose brilliance as a bowler — one of the greatest of all time —constantly was being compromised by his general cluelessness off the field.

TIGER'S TALE

Look back at some of the women with whom Tiger Woods was linked to before his divorce.

Warne spent his entire career stepping on land mines, most of which he’d laid himself. My favorite Warne scandal came in 2007 when, while attempting to reconcile with his wife, and mother of his three kids, he accidentally sent her a salacious text message meant for one of his squeezes.

But what’s amazing about Warne is that no matter how much of a boofhead (to use an Australian slang term) he's been throughout his career, the 41-year-old has an extraordinary capacity to just laugh it all off.

And that’s not only diffused scandals but also endeared him to people.

Woods has the same potential, but the difference is that he refuses to appear vulnerable in public. He’s been so conditioned to keeping people from peeking behind the curtain that he knows no other way.

So rather than laughing at himself, he’s kept up the charade of the “perfect Tiger Woods,” refusing to acknowledge that that guy, whoever he was, ceased to exist after the truth about his secret life was revealed.

Woods enjoys the company of Australians, in good part, I’ve always thought, because we’re not afraid to tell it like it is, though always through humor. And we don’t mind giving a bit of stick, or “the needle,” as Woods likes to call it.

And didn’t he get some at that dinner in Melbourne.

Tiger Woods

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Mark Nicholas, a former cricketer and now commentator who hosted the function, interviewed Woods and Warne on stage and noted mischievously that they both had the “same nocturnal habits.”

The room grew very silent. It had the potential to be a very awkward moment. Except that Warne thought it was hilarious.

“I think we have a little bit in common,” he said, pausing for effect before adding, “I love golf.”

The line had Woods in stitches, and soon enough the entire room burst into laughter.

“I have heard stories about him ... on the cricket pitch,” Woods responded, drawing more laughs.

Eddie McGuire, a man-about-town in Melbourne, wrote in his column in The Herald Sun that “we learnt more about the real Tiger Woods (that night) than we had seen in years and the audience loved it.”

“What we found was that having a laugh at your own expense can be the best way to move on from situations and get on with your life.”

BUY THE BOOK

Robert Lusetich's book, "Unplayable: An Inside Account of Tiger's Most Tumultuous Season," is available for purchase here.

Sage advice. Not surprisingly, Mark Steinberg, the never-smiling agent for Woods and IMG’s head of golf, wasn’t amused by the tone of the session. And he’s part of the problem in the sense that his job is to monetize Tiger Woods, the brand.

But what about the human being?

At least one source within the Woods camp told me the pressure to be “Tiger Woods” took a heavy toll. So why not wish that cardboard cutout good riddance and move on with life?

And when Rachel Uchitel gives her inevitable interviews from her rented Malibu home and speaks of telling her story “so that people can discover what sort of girl I am,” of her upcoming appearance on “Celebrity Rehab” — treated for “love addiction” — of not being a whore but giving rich men what they want, then why not just laugh like the rest of us, Tiger?

It is, after all, funny.

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