Don't for a moment think that Tiger Woods is merely an American phenomenon. In Britain we're obsessed with him too. Indeed, his new status as a cultural icon here was confirmed last week when the editor of one of our charming tabloids admonished his team of investigative sleuths: "This Tiger geezer—find out who he's sleeping with." (The Sunday Mirror quickly had supermodel Tyra Banks vying for Woods's affections with golfer Kelli Kuehne: WHAT A CATFIGHT! TYRA WARNS RIVAL: HANDS OFF MY TIGER.) You know that you have attained celebrity status in Britain when that happens. It is our ultimate accolade.
There are other noteworthy paeans, such as when writers and editors gratuitously drop your name into the first paragraph of a story on another subject. My favorite example of this shameless name-dropping appeared in a recent issue of the British magazine Golf Weekly. After Stuart Cage won the Cannes Open two weeks ago, his performance was compared to Woods's at the Masters. "They both showed the same steely determination," observed the magazine.
Yes, and the Augusta cineplex is comparable to the Cannes Film Festival because both show movies.
It's not just the media that have been quick to exploit Woods's victory. The golf authorities in Great Britain have seized on his impact as well. Earlier this year the Royal & Ancient announced that it would permit free entry to this summer's British Open to anyone under 18. And the British PGA plans to hold a national golf show next month that will be open to the public. Both moves are designed to arrest golf's decline in popularity here.
Woods will probably accomplish that without even setting foot in the country. Perhaps recognizing this, Nike started airing its "My Name Is Tiger Woods" ad on prime-time television last week. A BBC program called Black Britain recently spotlighted several young black players who had been sufficiently inspired by Woods's performance at Augusta to give the game a try.
Yes, there is no doubt that Tiger is wonderful for golf globally. There is one small problem with Tigermania, though, as I was reminded during a conversation with my editor last Friday. "I hope you've booked a flight for when Tiger next plays," he told me.
That remark was enough to make me nostalgic for the days when Nick Faldo ruled the world. Then, I only had to come up with a different story angle every other week.