Fatherhood will suit Tiger just fine
Chris Riley won on the Nationwide tour last weekend, on Father's Day, but even after the victory he sounded conflicted about being away from his daughters, ages 2 and 1, and his wife, the former LPGA golfer Michelle Louviere. "I had contemplated whether I wanted to keep doing this or not," Riley said. "People don't realize how lonely it is out here when you have a family back home."
It was Riley, you'll recall, who was the most vivid cautionary tale for new fathers at the 2004 Ryder Cup. His oldest, Taylor Lynn, was born Sept. 2 that year, right before the Cup matches, and Riley was so sleep-deprived that even after partnering with Tiger Woods to win a crucial Saturday morning match, giving hope to the downtrodden Yanks, he begged out of the afternoon matches. Riley was too tired, he said, and he's never heard the end of it.
The golf world became abuzz with speculation about the future of Tiger's game as the news of the birth of a baby girl, Sam Alexis, to Woods and his wife Elin, spread on Monday. Would Tiger lose his edge? Has he already — he's lost the lead on Sunday at the last two majors; that had never happened even once until this year.
"You can give credit to the guy that won," Ted Purdy said on Tuesday as he took time out from celebrating his son, Sam's, 4th birthday. "Angel Cabrera just played better."
Purdy is among those who believe that parenthood will have no effect whatsoever on Woods. For one thing, Woods is famous for needing little sleep, a commodity that will presumably be in short supply over the coming months. For another, Jack Nicklaus and his wife Barbara started having kids toward the end of the 1961 season with their first son, Jack II, who arrived on September 23. All Nicklaus did after that was win the U.S. Open the following summer, the first of his 18 major championship victories. Phil Mickelson, too, won a total of zero majors before he had kids. Zach Johnson and his wife Kim had a son, Will, earlier this year, and Johnson was so bothered he went out and won the Masters in April.
Woods, of course, has been way more successful than all of them prior to the household additions of string cheese and diapers. He'll probably continue to be more successful than Johnson and Mickelson, although winning 18 majors with a houseful of kids (Jack and Barbara eventually had four boys and a girl) may be a record Nicklaus will keep forever.
"As focused as he is it's not going to affect Tiger one bit," said Bob May, who was on a family vacation when he heard news of the birth Tuesday morning. "The only thing that'll affect him is he'll want to spend more time with her. It's a great part of your life. If anything it'll be more of a positive."
Purdy agreed. "For me, it changed my career," he said. "Both times [my wife] Arlene was pregnant, I won. I won on the Nationwide tour in Arkansas when she was six or seven months along with Sam, and I won the Byron Nelson when she was seven weeks pregnant with [now 18-month-old] Andie. So kids are good luck."
May, too, was about to add to his brood when he had his career highlight, pushing Woods to a playoff before finally losing the 2000 PGA Championship. His wife Brenda was too pregnant with their second child, Madelyn, to travel to the tournament. (Woods won the PGA Grand Slam of Golf and his own Target World Challenge while Elin was expecting.)
But there's one caveat: Sick kids are not good luck. After playing well at the Memorial last month, Purdy went to Memphis the next week even though his wife and kids were all back home in Arizona with strep throat. He shot an opening round 87.
"I think the golf gods of the universe knew I should be home with the family," he said.