Not only is he as un-likable and phony as ever, he's arguably worse. Daniel Riley of GQ takes a rusty two-iron to Baldrick's comeback with a genuine opus worthy of clip and save, forever.
It's been a while, but there was very much a moment, right on the eve of his gutless public apology, when he'd been MIA for two-plus months and sports fans wondered whether he'd ever return to golf. Of course, he did. Not so brilliantly, but still—he was playing. And now…Tiger had won again. He had proven he possessed the physical wellness (he'd recovered from busted leg ligaments) and the talent (the purity of his perfection-training hadn't evaporated overnight), but more important the head strength to seal a victory. He had fixed whatever was the matter, marched with a purposeful step in the direction of recovering our good favor.
But as I watched Tiger hole that clincher on Sunday, I couldn't quite share in the bigness of the moment. He'd swung his arm wildly and figured his face into an emphatic sneer, yet he'd beaten only seventeen other golfers, in his own off-season invitational. His reaction was enormous, comically outsize, like a Will Ferrell character after stuffing a third-grader in a shoot-around. Still, there it was: the patented fist pump. Vintage Tiger. Back, baby.
But even if you forgive his on course demeanor, or willingness to steamroll a former friend, coach, spouse or caddy (Harmon, Haney, Williams, Nordegren, et. al.) the most annoying part of Tiger, is how utterly phony he chooses to be.
Which, it should be said, has been the biggest problem with Tiger all along. Even during the soaring years of his infallibility—when his talents were impossible, his true character untested—no one really knew anything about the most recognizable athlete on earth. In the presence of reporters, Tiger seems only on the rarest occasion to have articulated a fully authentic statement. That's common enough. Most athletes undermine the highly interesting things they do in competition by being aggressively uninteresting when pressed to comment; many just don't have it in them. But Tiger was the rare supertalent who we suspected was capable of depth. And yet he actively chose the path of doublespeak. Watch any of a million interviews with him: He listens intently, looks you in the eye, verbalizes plenty of words, says nothing.
But when the fissures in Tiger's veneer became faults and their friction brought on a big old global quake, what was left to gain was the clearest picture of the star we'd ever seen. Instead of coming clean, though, and owning up in full to—or maybe even altering—the behavior he'd concealed all along, he has made certain he is less exposed, not more. He's doubled down on the strategy that broke him. The mistake, Tiger seems to believe, was that the secret had gotten out, not that he'd misplayed his power.
I have said all along, he's not "back" as a golfer, until he wins TWICE in a year. He's got one. We'll see what the weekend brings.