Riding the Tiger Woods Bus

Riding the Tiger Woods Bus

This week's Frys.com Open, known as the Las Vegas Invitational when Tiger Woods won it for his first professional title in 1996, marks a milestone: One decade since the game was turned on its head.

Who's benefited? Who's lost out? The scorecard, please:

The trainer Keith Clearwater bulked up and burned out, but Woods re-introduced the once feared practice of lifting weights. "I see the same guys everywhere I go," says Jeff Handler, who worked with hockey players before Adam Oates introduced him to Mike Weir. "There's Vijay's guy, Phil's guy, the Australians have their own guy."

Paul Giamatti The voice of Frank the Headcover in a series of Nike ads, Giamatti has parlayed the role into a successful movie career. (Okay, perhaps "Sideways" had something to do with it.)

Ed Fiori, Curtis Strange Curtis Strange has become not just a two-time U.S. Open champion but the answer to a trick question: Who was the first Nike golfer to attain the top spot in the World Ranking? Frumpy Fiori, whose epitaph will include the day he dusted a wide-eyed Woods at the 1996 Quad City Classic, now has his own website. You go, Ed!

Mules Caddies Fluff Cowan and Steve Williams have earned more cheddar than most players, whose prize money has gone from $61 million in 1995 to more than $255 million in '06. The Wachovia Championship's $375,000 Maybach courtesy car says it all.

The Golf Channel It used to be a joke, but in January it will begin its 15-year deal as the Tour's exclusive cable partner. "I joke all the time that I hitched my star to [Tiger's] wagon," says Scott Van Pelt, who joined the GC from its birth in 1995 and moved to ESPN in 2001.

Cyber Swingers EA Sports went from a stable of golfers that included Fuzzy Zoeller, Peter Jacobsen and Brad Faxon, to five times that many players, from Woods to comely Natalie Gulbis to lumpy Colin Montgomerie and beyond. Even Ricky Barnes is on the payroll.

The Swoosh Nike became a player in the golf biz. "We announced the [1996 Woods] deal at the same time we announced that we'd signed the Brazilian soccer team," says Nike Golf president Bob Wood, "and our stock went down 10%. There was less understanding in the community about sports marketing."

The Mercedes Championships Woods's electric playoff victory over Ernie Els in the 2000 Mercedes, in its second year in Hawaii, "really put us on the map," says tourney chairman Gary Planos.

The Dubliner Under the headline, "Ryder Cup filth for Ireland," the Irish magazine's September issue featured a photograph of a topless woman purported to be Mrs. Tiger Woods, Elin Nordegren. It wasn't, and Woods was hoppin' mad, but that probably won't be the end of it. When an Alabama artist sold paintings and the Franklin Mint hawked coins commemorating Tiger's 1997 Masters W, Woods sued both for unlawfully using his image, netting a loss and a settlement, respectively.

The Tiger Woods Story Showtime's early attempt at a TV bio employed three actors to play Woods. The critics did not love it, and neither did Tiger. The good news: No one got sued.

Sergio Garcia He threatened Woods for 25 minutes at the 1999 PGA, and beat an ailing Tiger in the 2000 Battle of Bighorn. But of all the would-be contenders who have melted in Woods' presence, the pastel-hued Garcia looks the most hopelessly psyched out. And yellow.

Rupert Murdoch He launched the now defunct Maximum Golf for "the Tiger Woods generation." (For which this reporter was an editor.) It lasted 12 rollicking issues, and then cratered along with everything else in the economy in 2001. On the bright side, the mag didn't print a single "nude" photograph of Elin Nordegren.

ABC Golf The network kept reshuffling its anchors and directors and had just found a winning formula (Paul Azinger, Nick Faldo) when the net's pencil pushers gave up on golf altogether in light of the Tour's lofty rights fees. What will become of Billy Ray Brown?

The Swoosh Nike's first Tiger shoe was black with red accents (can we call it piping?) and looked like a soccer cleat after a highway fatality. It was so wrong it should have been called the Air Ball, Air Haggis or To Err is Human. Says Wood: "That was a very visible egg."

The Mercedes Championships Woods driveth; Woods driveth into a wall. The Mercedes went from the autobahn in 2000 to the slow lane this year, with a Tiger no-show leading to a reported 20% decline in sales. Not that Stuart Appleby noticed.

Cameron Morfit covers the PGA Tour as a Senior Writer for GOLF MAGAZINE. You can read his column every Monday on GOLFONLINE. E-mail him your questions and comments at [email protected].

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