Tiger Woods' book: Bio and '97 Masters memories
Check each week for book reviews at CliffSchrock.com. This week’s book is The 1997 Masters: My Story, by Tiger Woods, with Lorne Rubenstein, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Book Group), $30, hardback, 244 pages.
The long wait is over for Tiger Woods fans, devotees of golf literature, and lovers of the Masters. Their man is back and his loyal supporters can feel recharged about him gaining on Jack Nicklaus. The fact that he’s getting closer to Jack as an author and not a player shouldn’t lessen the excitement. It’s better than what Tiger has been able to give his faithful followers on the course.
It's been more than 15 years since reviewers have been able to write about a Tiger Woods book. His first was “How I Play Golf,” a 320-page instructional volume he did with the editors of Golf Digest. Now at long last Woods has published his second book, also with a personal title, “The 1997 Masters: My Story.” It was released in late March just in time to celebrate the 20 years it has been since his stunning, record-breaking first major victory. The milestone event launched the 21-year-old into a breathtaking golf orbit that seems to have burned out, but it ignited the golf world into a frenzy that lasted through his winning of 14 majors and he remains a fascinating figure to follow, something that likely puzzles him because there's been nothing to see lately.
Surely the goal was that the book would coincide with Woods’ return to the major stage as a player, but he has been forced to stay in rehab mode due to an unstable back. I had written last October how “My Story” would likely be the most personal Woods will have been in print. At the age of 41, Woods has not done any bio work, something Jack had taken care of before he turned 30. Woods’ two-book total is far short of the 10 Nicklaus had at age 41; Jack has done roughly 20 books and 15 booklets in his lifetime.
So while Tiger trails Jack on the course and the shelf, getting another Woods book off the press is very encouraging. I went into this book thinking it would purely be a retelling of the magical ’97 Masters, hopefully matching the gold standard for major championship retelling, Dick Schaap’s “Massacre at Winged Foot” in 1974. But what we get instead is a book that could have been called, “My Story: The 1997 Masters and Thoughts on Golf.” This is not the in-depth, emotions-bared autobiography all those fascinated with Woods want to see, but at this point, it’s the best they’re going to get. And pegging it as more biographical could have been more attractive as a need-to-read book. There are so many life flashbacks interspersed with the ’97 Masters storyline that he in essence did a chronicle-bio that is an entertaining read on his emergence as a major winner and an insightful peek into the thought processes that propelled him into discussions of being the greatest ever.
Notoriously less than forthcoming, Woods is not likely to do a full-fledged autobiography, because to do so would require bringing up the scandalous part of his life. In a book that’s billed as his remembrance of an iconic golf event, we get that along with a long litany of life flashbacks, both on and off the course, such as:
His surprising swing change after winning the ’97 Masters; his mea culpa over his failure to honor Jackie Robinson when asked; a rehash of the misconstrued Fuzzy Zoeller remarks in ’97; his take on the Augusta National changes since ’97 and his strategy on playing the course; his upbringing in golf and lessons taught by his father, Earl; why he wears red on Sunday; the reason for the wall he put up between himself and the media and the public, heavily influenced by his father; his fascination with space travel and science; his take on links-golf strategy; how Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters victory fascinated him as he watched it as a kid; some detailed segments on equipment; how he feels a shot rather than sees it; the military-type training and profanity he got as teaching points from his father, and amateur, junior and college golf thoughts.
Woods admits wrongdoing in his marriage, and mistakes in judgment that now at this stage of his life he can see more clearly. Some fun insights: He practiced with a putter that had a grip that would beep if he held it too tight. He went to Arby’s every evening of each round in ‘97. And he said he slept easy on the eve of a final round when he had the lead because he felt he was in control of his game. Quite often you feel you are, for the first time, hearing him honestly address mistakes and errors in forthright fashion, as well as reveal a bit of himself. He didn’t go too deep, and sadly, the Postscript has an “I may be done playing, I don’t have much more to say” feel. If this new book proves successful, writing about other milestones in book form could prove to be a new favorite forum for Woods and a way to shape his legacy.
As for the ’97 Masters itself, the day-by-day approach of that Masters week was effective. We get the right amount of shot-for-shot repartee, but I find fault that there could have been more about non-Woods elements, such as short leaderboards from time to time and anecdotes on the atmosphere around him as he marched toward victory. Cowriter Rubenstein, one of the most accomplished golf writers the game has had, does an admirable job of helping shape the narrative in Woods’ voice.
Will this book lead to a third one in the Woods library that won’t take 15 years to publish as it took between Nos. 1 and 2? If this ’97 Masters is successful, the back keeps him off the course, and the writing process doesn’t prove too tedious, Woods would have many more major golf milestones he could write about. If so, we just might get that Woods autobiography...piece by piece.