Here Sam Tremlett review's Michael Bamberger's new book on Tiger Woods.
The Second Life of Tiger Woods – Book Review
As far as athletes go, the one person I pretty much know all there is to know about, is Tiger Woods. He was my golfing hero when I played so I soaked up all the information I could about him whether it be from news stories, videos, books or whatever. I currently sit at 26 years-of-age, and yet luckily this thirst for knowledge on the enigma that is Tiger has never waned.
Even more lucky and fortuitous is the work I do now which means the Golf Monthly office occasionally gets sent books to review and recently I got sent Michael Bamberger’s new book, The Second Life of Tiger Woods. Bamberger is a former Sports Illustrated writer who currently contributes to GOLF Magazine and his book seeks to tell the story of how Tiger recovered from several low-points in his life to win the 2019 Masters. I know what you are thinking, both of those things have been covered thousands of times by online posts and such, but Bamberger seeks to tell you the things you don’t already know, the things that are not common knowledge.
In short, it is a redemption story in every sense of the word. Bamberger explains with great detail how those self-inflicted lows came about, how he sought to resolve those issues, the incredible highs and perhaps most important, the people who helped him along the way.
I was excited to get stuck in when it got sent to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Below are some of my thoughts…
The 2020 tournament may be postponed but you can still get a Masters fix of sorts reading this book. The detail Bamberger goes into on the entire week is excellent and I found myself fascinated by the whole tournament. How the pros go about their business for the week, how things work during the Champions Dinner and where people sit in said dinner is sure to make you smile. There are countless factoids on the course that you won’t know about but most importantly we gain an insight into what Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer ever, did leading up to victory at the 2019 Masters.
Tiger Symbolised The New Rules
Perhaps a more profound thing I realised when reading was how Tiger was unlike any athlete that had been before in terms of the media, especially in golf. As Bamberger puts it; “Arnold Palmer did what he wanted, and nobody wrote about it. Thirty years later, Michael Jordan did what he wanted, and there was no public shaming of him. But the rules were changing.” Yes they were, and Tiger was the first to truly fall afoul to them when his infidelities hit newspapers and the world wide web.
I think Bamberger highlights how Tiger was probably the first modern and global superstar athlete to have lived pretty much his entire life in the public eye and the media. From when he first appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at two years-old, he was treated like an abnormal person so it should come as no surprise he thought he could get away with some of the things he has done.
Relationship To Other Golfers
How Tiger treats his fellow professionals, and how they see him has always interested me and throughout the 260-odd pages, Bamberger satisfies that interest with little nuggets of information. For example, what is pretty clear is Tiger during his pomp was cold with most other professionals which I mainly put down to Tiger thinking they were his opponents and therefore his enemies. One particular story between Tiger and Greg Norman on a drawbridge is particularly illuminating. Then Bamberger also references Tiger’s frosty relationships with Sir Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson too.
To be honest, as interesting as I found all of that, it did not surprise me. One passage that did though was Tiger and his relationship to Jose Maria Olazabal. Bamberger describes the pair having “an underlying closeness between them, even if they aren’t in each other’s lives on anything like a regular basis.” At one point Tiger is said to have acknowledged that Olazabal had a better short game than Phil Mickelson which is praise indeed! I wont spoil it any further, but that passage is particularly enlightening.
A Changed Person
This was the main thing I took from the excellent book, how Tiger has completely changed from the person he used to be. During his dominant period, Tiger was an athlete where you could love and respect the player, but you’d find it hard to love the man.
But he has become a person that many people love and respect for a couple of reasons. Number one is that he has made his mistakes which I think makes him more human.
Number two is the role his children play and how they have changed him. When he was dominating the world of golf he only had to look after himself, and did whatever he wanted because looking after number one was his only responsibility. There is a sense that when he was younger he wanted to beat everyone, conquer everything in his path.
But children change everything.
From the book you feel as if he understands the importance in being a good father and also he understands his impact and importance in terms of other professionals, fans, children and the entire golfing industry. Near the end of the book a couple of sentences encapsulated this perfectly; “Tiger’s fifteenth Major was different from the fourteenth before it. He didn’t win it as Earl’s son. He won it as Charlie and Sam’s father. He didn’t win it walled off from his fans. He won it bringing his fans in.”
Indeed I think the book importantly illuminates all of this with its very name. ‘The Second Life of Tiger Woods’ tells you everything you need to know. He dominated the game when younger, made mistakes, got injured and kind of became reborn as someone totally different. Someone more human. Everyone noticed it too as shown by the passage below which is a quote from Bob Jones IV talking about Woods’ Tour Championship win;
“When Tiger won his first Masters, he was a specimen in a glass. People would shout his name and he would walk right by. The East Lake win was different. It was a shared experience…I felt connected to him for the first time, and he was connecting with us for the first time. We were seeing the transformation of an athlete into a man. It wasn’t just a sporting achievement. It was a human one.”
Verdict: If you want to know more on Tiger then this book will deliver in spades. To be honest the book pays for itself with all the knowledge you gain just from the passages on The Masters, whether it be in terms of what Tiger did to win that week, or the tournament in general. But for me the main two reasons to buy this book are; you have a much larger understanding on who the people are in his life and how they have helped him become the person he is today. And the other reason is that you gain a greater understanding into who Tiger is now – the player, the father, the person.
My main criticism however is that Americans like Bamberger need to stop calling The Open Championship, the British Open. It is called The Open Championship and should be written as such!
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