All eat from the bowl of life. Tiger Woods just has a bigger spoon.
So writes Curt Sampson in his ground-breaking account of the current state of golf. Tiger Woods has changed golf forever. His mix of power and skill combines with his extraordinary business savvy to make Woods the biggest global sports figure since Michael Jordan. Like Jordan, Woods' competitive signature is equal parts inspiration and intimidation.
But what about the other guys? It's either catch up or give up for the rest of the golfing world, and in Chasing Tiger Curt Sampson exuberantly charts the state of the game as the new century unfolds. There are Duval and Mickelson and a host of other stars, of course, but there are also the junior golfers and their parents, corporate America, agents, instructors, fans, and the media.
Just as he did in his controversial bestsellers Hogan and The Masters, Sampson digs deep to uncover stories that wouldn't otherwise be told. There's the golf course employee in Austin whose admiration for Woods leads him to spend every waking minute mimicking his hero (including the trademark pumping fist, only here it's on the practice green). There's the awestruck unemployed talk show host who stretches the bounds of good taste and hero worship with his Web site, Tigerwoodsisgod.com. At the other end of the scale is Charles Howell III, skinny as a 2-iron, a up-and-coming player who has been tapped by Jack Nicklaus to be the next great challenge to Woods. Howell is the anti-Tiger: a man unfailingly friendly to fans and media, recently married, opinionated, and entirely lacking in caution, yet he struggles to earn enough money to make the Tour.
Curt Sampson has written an affectionate yet wary account of one extraordinary man's impact on the world of sport. By turns moving, hilarious, and eye-opening, Chasing Tiger is a wonderful addition to the golf canon.
There are few public figures as mysterious as Eldrick "Tiger" Woods; his apparent mistrust of the media and painstakingly crafted image deny the public much insight into his true colors. Sampson (The Masters) takes a shot at not just learning about Tiger, but at studying his considerable effect on the game of golf. The old sports writing axiom says, "The smaller the ball, the better the writing," and Sampson certainly has chops commensurate with golf's small sphere, though his inability to pass up on cheesy similes and metaphors can be off-putting. Former touring pro Sampson's connections in the sport are on par with his authorial flair. He searches far and wide for ripples stemming from Tiger, talking not only to opponents but to tournament directors, fellow media types, Tiger's family and golfers from the sport's past. Perhaps Sampson casts his net too wide; at times, the individuals he profiles seem to possess a tangential-at-best connection to Tiger. Sampson is best at capturing the details the smell of pine straw on a course or the flush on the back of a pressured participant's neck as only a golf aficionado and ace writer can. Of Tiger's swing coach, he writes: "Instructor Butch Harmon stands a few paces behind his student, impassive, silent, chewing gum, wearing shades, and looking for God-knows-what in that godlike swing." Ultimately, readers don't learn a lot about Tiger, but they do discover he's far more complex than he is bland.