It's been almost a full year since Tiger Woods treated his driveway and his neighbor's front lawn like he was playing a game of Grand Theft Auto. With his final-round 65 at the Australian Masters this month and his recent charm offensive (an essay in Newsweek, a talk-radio appearance, a blog post, and even some tweets), Tiger is looking ahead to better days. Here are the 12 steps he needs to take to regain his rightful place atop the golf world and make us all forget about Rachel Uchitel.
1. Stick With Sean Foley
Breaking up with your former coach Hank Haney and starting to work with Sean Foley was the smartest thing you did all year (not that there was much competition). You had a lot of success with Haney, but there's no question that after six years with him, your driving was the worst it had ever been. Foley can fix that. Plus, your new coach is tough, confident and teaches a stable of hot players like Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair. He'll stand up to you and tell you the truth. I get the feeling you don't have too many guys like that around.
2. No More Endorsements
Your agent Mark Steinberg talked with CNBC's sports-business reporter Darren Rovell about your upcoming sponsorships. "We're close to a deal coming out of Asia, and we're in discussions with a number of companies interested in being on his golf bag," Steinberg said. An Asian deal and a bag logo? That's getting pretty close to Chico's Bail Bonds territory. Tell Steiny, "No more deals until I win a tournament." Once you win again, those companies ignoring you will start lining up for your endorsement.
3. Cheer Up
The most perceptive take on your difficult year came from the satirical news site The Onion, which had the priceless headline: "Tiger Woods Hits Rock Bottom, Aside from Being Worth Over $600 Million." Life's not so bad, Tiger. You have always been a compelling athlete to watch, but it's hard to understand why you look so unhappy all the time. No one expects you to become Phil Mickelson and turn your galleries into a giant love-in, but the occasional smile goes a long way. This year, you appeared to lighten up a little. More autographs, smiles, and acknowledgements to the fans. Keep this going in 2011.
4. Stop Tweeting
Some people are born to tweet. They want to share the mundane details of their lives ("Who doesn't love Cinnamon Life cereal? Yum.") or they can't help making snarky comments on sports, politics and pop culture ("When did Brett Favre turn into Roger Sterling?"). Sharing isn't your style, Tiger. Plus, you're known for talking for 30 minutes at a press conference to say absolutely nothing. Saying nothing in 140 characters is too easy. It's beneath you.
5. Do The Hangover 2 Cameo
Forget Mel Gibson. You are the ultimate get for the producers of "The Hangover 2," who are looking for a celebrity cameo to top Mike Tyson's surprisingly effective comic touch in the original. Plus, you're the guy who used to check into hotels under the name "Eric Cartman." You love movies like "The Hangover." Director Todd Phillips is filming the sequel in Thailand and has reportedly said he would like you to be in it. Maybe you secretly filmed a cameo while you were there this month? Let's hope so. Laughter is the best medicine, especially when you can laugh at yourself.
6. Lose Mike & Mike's Number
I used to drive an hour to work in central Pennsylvania, and I would listen to ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" every day. It's a good show, and Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are entertaining hosts. However, your decision to appear almost exclusively on this show is a little strange. I can't imagine how many requests your agent gets for interviews, but I imagine it looks something like: "60 Minutes," "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," "NBC Nightly News," the BBC, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric. Yet you only agree to interviews on a syndicated sports radio show? I don't get it. It's like President Obama going on "The View" when he had something important to say. OK, bad example.
7. Stick With One Putter
Your Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter is almost as well-known and feared as your red shirt on Sunday. You've had it in your bag for 13 of your 14 majors. So it was startling when you put a Nike Method putter in your bag at the British Open this year. Your reason was the slower greens at St. Andrews, but it looked like a cry for help. Especially when you switched back to the Scotty Cameron on Sunday. During the off-season, when you're playing at your awe-inspiring backyard golf course, choose one putter and stick with it. To paraphrase a football saying, when you have two putters, you have no putter.
8. Make a Funny Commercial for Nike
You starred in probably the best sports commercial of all-time.
You also starred in the worst.
My colleague Alan Bastable compared that one to "The Ring": if you watch it, you're going to die. The lesson: Do the funny one.
9. Act Your Age
In your blog post this week, you pointedly placed yourself in the older generation of Tour players like Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh. Huh? These guys are in their 40s and well into the back nine of their careers. You're not even 35 yet. That's your prime. Nicklaus won six majors after 35, Snead won five, Hogan won eight. Let the whippersnappers know you aren't going anywhere. You can still intimidate the Rickies and Rorys of the world. Just watch out for that Kaymer guy.
10. Start Dating Again
You're a wealthy, famous, divorced father living in Orlando. Heck, Nora Ephron is probably writing the screenplay for a romantic comedy based on you right now. No one expects you to live like a monk. Go out, have fun, meet people, just decline those Las Vegas man-weekend invitations from Anthony Kim.
10. Anger Management Classes
The PGA Tour might allow cell phones at tournaments next year, so you're going to need them. Book some sessions for Stevie, too.
12. Don't Listen to Anyone
Least of all Internet columnists. You know exactly what you need to do and where you need to do it. See you at Augusta in 134 days.