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March 29, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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The reverse sweep

The Reverse Sweep

An alternative guide to all things sport

Golf’s Tiger has traded fame for infamy, since allegations of adultery have become public. The prolific winner has amassed an astonishing 71 victories on the PGA Tour since he turned pro in 1996, including 14 majors—second only to legend Jack Nicklaus. However, Tiger’s ever-increasing recognition took a massive blow following investigations into a 27th November car ‘accident’. He has not played since the incident, citing ‘personal’, reasons, which he has now admitted involve several instances of infidelity. Having sought rehabilitation for sex addiction, Tiger plans to make his return at the Masters in April—Augusta being the site of his maiden major victory back in 1997.

Augusta has been an especially happy hunting ground for Tiger, with four wins and eight top five finishes from fifteen consecutive starts. It is this outstanding record, along with a reputation for being unflappable, that makes Tiger the undisputed favourite to win (odds of about 3–1), ahead of the likes of world number two Phil Mickelson (7–1) and in-form Irishman Padraig Harrington (16–1).

Tiger has accrued a whopping $100 million in career prize money, and according to Forbes, he is now the world’s first sporting billionaire, thanks to huge endorsement deals. However, he has recently been dropped by major sponsors Accenture, Gatorade and AT&T, and while money is not an issue for Tiger, his reputation and saleability must have taken a further pounding.

Unsurprisingly, Tiger’s antics have given him comedic value. Jokes aplenty have sprung up over the web, such as my personal favourite: “What’s the difference between a golf ball and an SUV? Tiger can drive a golf ball 300 yards.” His infidelities have even prompted a book, The Tiger Woods Syndrome (Why Men Prowl and How to Not Become the Prey). Psychiatrist Dr Jerry Bruns and Dr RA Richards have cashed in on the happenings of 2009—dubbed The Year of the Serial Cheaters—which included confessions of illicit liaisons from Lateshow host David Letterman and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.

While Tiger’s carefully crafted reputation has certainly been wounded, his stunning strokeplay and charismatic approach is still guaranteed to draw wide support wherever he goes. You need look no further than his foundation—set up in 1996 to help disadvantaged youths get a good education—to know that Tiger is pure at heart, and simply needs to sort out the sexual and commitment issues he has vowed to correct. The players and officials agree, with the general feeling being that Tiger’s presence is vital for the game.

The 2010 Masters should be very competitive and exciting, with a top-class field battling it out to take out the prized first major of the year. My personal favourite is the plucky Harrington, who has won three majors in recent years—all from behind after 54 holes—and seems to step up for the majors, with an impressive 13 top ten finishes to his name. The value bets would have to be the rising South African star Charl Swartzel (51–1), or even 2008 champion Trevor Immelman (151–1!), whose two PGA victories have been over Tiger himself.

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