In late 2005 and early 2006, on assignment for Men’s Vogue in Los Angeles and Orlando, I got to spend some time hanging around with Tiger Woods. (Woods wanted Vogue to pay attention to his clothing lines and so had agreed to be interviewed at some length by a print reporter, something he ordinarily hates and rarely does.) He buffaloed me on at least one issue—he described his marriage as one of the proudest achievements of his life—but I liked him a lot, and I enjoyed being with him, and I found him much more interesting to talk to than, for example, any of the handful of Major League Baseball players I had to interview, many years ago, on an assignment for the short-lived magazine Inside Sports. (Imagine the most annoying jock in your high school class permanently frozen at his moment of maximum annoyingness.) Woods gets close to zero credit for being forthcoming, but, actually, over the years he has intelligently explained a huge amount about what goes on in his mind as he competes—more than any other great athlete I can think of.
He has also been surprisingly nonchalant about the potential peril of getting out of the bed in the morning. He loves roller coasters. He races down double-black-diamond slopes despite not knowing all that much about skiing. He has taught himself to hold his breath underwater for four minutes, and he has dived to a hundred feet without scuba tanks. He has gone bungee jumping in New Zealand. And he drives his car too fast, in my middle-aged opinion. Also, of course, those cocktail waitresses.
In Florida, the idea was that Woods would put on a Prada suit and zip around Lake Butler on a jet ski while the photographer chased him in a power boat. But there was a problem. The sky had darkened steadily through the morning, and the wind had picked up to thirty miles an hour, and the National Weather Service had issued a small-craft advisory. The owner of the power boat said the water was so choppy that if he ventured onto the lake he might not be able to return to the same dock. Canceling the shoot would be the prudent thing to do, everyone agreed—except Woods. “It’s not that rough,” he said, like a ten-year-old making a case for visiting Disney World in a thunderstorm.
Woods eventually prevailed on the weather issue. After a few minutes on the water, though, he circled back toward the dock, and I and all the other people on shore assumed that the ugly conditions had brought him to his senses. But then he shouted, “How fast is this thing supposed to go?” It turned that he hadn’t been able to crank the jet ski to anything like its top speed, 60 m.p.h., and he couldn’t figure out what might be wrong. A neighbor of the jet ski’s owner removed several handfuls of weeds from under the hull, and Woods happily took off again, at full throttle.
Thirty minutes later he was back on land, very pleased. As he changed out of his wet clothes, he said, “Watch this,” and poured a half-cup of water from one of his Cole Haan oxfords
With a great deal of trepidation, I’m going to open this blog to comments. But I can always change my mind. Real names, please.