by Jeff Skinner
It doesn’t matter if Tiger Woods plays golf, doesn’t play golf, wins tournaments or doesn’t win tournaments he is still the biggest thing in the world of golf. Whether he wins or loses, plays or sits home he is the number one topic in most golf circles. CBS, NBC and ABC all take heat during broadcasts when all they show is Tiger Woods. Sometimes The Golf Channel seems like The Tiger Channel and every writer, analyst and blogger uses Tiger as their lead whenever they can. As John Hawkins of The Golf Channel likes to say Woods doesn’t just move the needle, he is the needle.
Few writers take Tiger to task more than John Feinstein. Feinstein is about as reputable as any sportswriter in the world. He has more connections then a mafia don and writes for so many outlets is hard to keep up with them not to mention the books he cranks out year after year.
His latest is One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game and it just hit the shelves last week. While he forgot to send me my preview copy (I’ll forgive him) January’s Golf Digest has an excerpt in it that sheds some light on why Feinstein hasn’t been the biggest Tiger fan. It is full of intriguing, behind the scenes dirt and for golf junkies like me, its pure heaven.
It isn’t up on the Golf Digest website yet, see there is still a good reason to buy print magazines, so here is just one of the stories Feinstein gives us on Woods.
This takes place after the 1997 Masters when Woods won by 12 strokes and Feinstein had already angered the Tiger camp by writing some less than flattering things about Tiger and his dad.
After I had written a column in Golf Magazine about Tiger blowing off the Buick Challenge and the college dinner and about the scene at Disney, George Peper, the editor of the magazine at the time, had gotten a call from Hughes Norton (Tiger’s agent) demanding a meeting with me. I had no problem meeting with Norton and his deputy, a guy named Clarke Jones.
And so Peper, Mike Purkey (my editor) and I met with Norton and Jones over breakfast at The Masters. There were two highlights to what turned out to be a short meeting. The first was when Jones, apparently the designated bad cop, demanded to know who my sources were on several things I had written. I looked at him and said, “Clarke, if I wanted you to know that, I’d have used their names in the magazine.”
“Well, I want to know, right now!”
“Can’t have everything you want in life, Clarke.”
Norton, the designated good cop, jumped in to say that he really didn’t want to see Tiger’s anger at me result in him deciding not to sign a contract with Golf as a ‘playing editor.’ At that moment Golf and Golf Digest were trying to get Tiger under contract. In fact, Golf had no chance because Golf Digest had a bigger circulation and it had Pete McDaniel-who would write one of Earl Woods’ books. But Norton was using Golf to up the ante in his negotiations with Golf Digest.
I knew from talking to Peper that he was holding out hope that his magazine could somehow get Tiger, and I also knew it would be a big deal for Golf. As soon as Norton started his “I’d hate to see Tiger being upset with John affect our negotiations with Golf” speech, I stood up.
“Is that what this meeting is about?” I said. “So you can blackmail George?”
I turned to Peper,”Listen, if you need to fire me to get this deal done with Tiger, go ahead. My Guess is Digest will hire me tomorrow. So it’s fine, although I don’t think for a second they’re going to sign with you. In fact, I’ll bet the deal is already done. But you have to do what you have to do.”
“Meanwhile, I have things to do. If you want to stay and eat with these two a—holes, go ahead. But I have better things to do than listen to this crap.”
I stalked out. In June, Golf Digest announced it had signed a deal to make Tiger Woods a playing editor.
Feinstein goes on to say that he did talk with Norton again and developed a working relationship with him. He even relates his first sit-down with Tiger, requested by Tiger. But you’ll have to get the book for that one, or at least a copy of Golf Digest.