Think of Sports Illustrated's John Garrity as an auditor. His assignment: the new Tiger Woods

Think of Sports Illustrated’s John Garrity as an auditor. His assignment: the new Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

“I am, by nature, a control freak,” Tiger says with a smile.

The smile is sheepish. It says, I get teased about this all the time.
Tiger sits on one side of a conference table. I sit on the other. A Nike Golf executive, a longtime acquaintance of mine, stands by the door. She checks her watch every minute or so to make sure I don’t take more than my allotted 10 minutes.
Outside, on the tarmac, a Gulfstream 5 waits with its stairs lowered. It is parked not far from a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, beyond which the L.A. traffic whooshes by in hazy sunshine.
So when Tiger confesses that he is a control freak, I have to fight the impulse to snort derisively. You think?

I’ve opened with a few seconds of small talk. I’ve told Tiger how much I enjoyed playing with him the previous week in the pro-am of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. (“Cool,” he says, his expression giving no indication that he remembers.) We then get down to business. Or rather, we talk about business. For 9 1/2 minutes.
When my time is up, I reach across the table and shake Tiger’s hand. Nodding to my friend, I walk out of the room, down the hallway, out the front door of the terminal, across the tarmac and up the stairs of the G5.
What? You thought the plane was Tiger’s?

Think of me as an auditor. My assignment: Tiger Woods 2006. I have the ledgers right here, and the numbers are great. He won eight PGA Tour events last year, including the British Open and the PGA Championship. He topped the money list for the seventh time and was voted the Tour’s Player of the Year for the eighth time. He beat Ernie Els in a playoff at the Dubai Desert Classic. He won his last six PGA Tour events and then mopped up the season with unofficial wins at the Grand Slam of Golf and his own Target World Challenge.

But there are some anomalies. A 22nd at the Players Championship, won by Stephen Ames. Thirty-three putts and no final-round kick in a third-place finish at the Masters, won by Phil Mickelson. A missed cut—Tiger’s first in a major as a professional—at the U.S. Open, won by Geoff Ogilvy.
I explain these in a footnote: “Earl Woods dies of cancer, May 3.”

It’s not my job as auditor to coax a tear out of you with the details. You saw the lost look in Tiger’s eyes when he rejoined the Tour for the Open at Winged Foot. You saw Tiger sobbing on the 18th green after his victory at Royal Liverpool. I’ll simply remind you that golf’s greatest player, in the months since his father’s death, has taken direct control of his nonprofit, started a business, begun construction on a house, negotiated sponsorship of his own PGA Tour event and conceived an heir, whose birth is expected in July.
I submit the words of the Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa: We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.

When I first met Tiger, he had nothing. No bankable assets, anyway. . . .
His bedroom was full of schoolbooks, posters and the usual detritus of Southern California teen life. He had just gotten a puppy, but it wasn’t one of those pricey pedigree pooches. It was a mutt. When a friend of mine played a friendly round with the 14-year-old phenom, Tiger suggested that they play for a stick of ABC gum.

“What’s ABC gum?” my friend asked.
The kid grinned. “Already Been Chewed.”

Tiger wasn’t much better off two years later, at the 1992 Los Angeles Open. His cap was swooshless, his clothes were off the rack. In fact, he still answered to the name Eldrick. Reporters crowded around him, wanting to know what it was like to be the youngest golfer to play in a PGA Tour event. With his proud father at his side, Tiger smiled bashfully and helped the reporters by spelling the names of his teachers at Western High in Anaheim. He said he wanted to go to college and had already picked out a major: accounting.

I conducted my own appraisal of Tiger near sunset on the eve of the tournament. We stood behind the practice range at Riviera Country Club, making small talk, getting acquainted. My eyes kept darting to his golf bag—a skinny carry model with no corporate logos. “It won’t be long,” I told him, “before you have a bag with your name on it.”
Tiger flashed the big grin. “That’d be cool.”

Fifteen years and 65 pro tournament victories later, Tiger, now 31, has a foundation with his name on it. And a learning center. And a street (Tiger Woods Way, Anaheim). Last year he quietly took the helm of the Tiger Woods Foundation, which, since its inception in 1996, has awarded more than $30 million in grants. He keeps a close eye, as well, on the 14-acre Anaheim campus of the Tiger Woods Learning Center, where in 2006 some 8,000 students, grades 4 through 12, enhanced their public-school education by tackling subjects such as rocket science, software design and crime-scene investigation. In November he hung out a shingle for Tiger Woods Design, a golf course architecture firm.

In keeping with his changed circumstances, Tiger lives large. He circles the globe in Citations and Gulfstreams supplied by a sponsor, NetJets. When he wants to calm his mind, he cruises the Caribbean on his 155-foot yacht, Privacy, which set him back a cool $20 million. And while Tiger continues to reside with his wife, Elin, in a relatively humble Orlando-area mansion, he flies to Jupiter Island, Fla., from time to time to monitor developments at the 12-acre, $44.5 million waterfront estate he bought last year. Workers will demolish the 13-year-old, 23,000-square-foot main house, but Tiger and Elin can bunk at either of two guesthouses or chill out on the yacht, tied up at their private dock, while they supervise construction of a domicile worthy of a neighborhood that Forbes describes as “the world’s most expensive zip code.” Last year Golf Digest estimated that Tiger had already earned roughly half a billion dollars in endorsements and appearance fees on top of tournament winnings of $66 million over nine seasons. The magazine projected that by the end of 2010 Tiger will become the first billionaire athlete.

But they’re guessing, aren’t they?

Tiger and I, talking in the conference room, dance around the net worth issue. (I think he’s too polite to ask.) . . .
He does speak frankly about his fading youth and the impending demands of fatherhood. “I’m not going to always play golf,” he says, leaning forward. “Eventually the body gives out, and you can’t play anymore. But there are other avenues you can take that will keep you competitive, keep you interested and keep your mind working.”

I nod, but I wonder if he’s putting me on. Tiger makes commercials for Buick, but he is not an “avenues” guy. Tiger is more your helmeted speed freak in a 6,500-horsepower top-fuel dragster going 330 mph with header flames flying off the manifold. Since he turned pro in 1996, Tiger has been racing due north toward Jack Nicklaus’s career record of 18 major-championship victories. If he wins next week at the Masters, Tiger will have three straight majors, 13 overall and a chance, at the U.S. Open in June, to reprise his Tiger Slam of 2000-01.

But here is Tiger, elbows on the table, working me like a cold-call broker. His business goal, he says, is to get to “a place where my family can be financially secure.” His course-design work will be “a partnership between me and the owner of the property; I’m trying to provide a product they’ll be happy with.” His brilliantly successful endorsement deal with Nike, a multiyear contract recently renewed for a reported $100 million plus, is about “providing products that consumers will enjoy.”
He sums up: “We are in the providing business.”

I wonder, for an instant, if Tiger is trying to sell me a fixed-rate annuity.

“It all depends on how much risk you want to take on,” he continues, flattering me with his use of the second person. “The things I do are very conservative. They’re one-offs here and there with people who are very good at what they do.”
Tiger smiles. “I guess you don’t become billionaires by making bad decisions.”

Later, strapped into a comfortable leather armchair on the G5, I stretch my legs and sip a cold 7-Up. The brown expanse of the Mojave Desert, 44,000 feet below, resembles an unrolled bolt of tanned leather.

Tiger’s talk about risk and reward has left me vaguely discomfited. I think back to one of his more memorable golf shots—the 213-yard six-iron from a fairway bunker that he smacked over a guarding pond to 15 feet to beat Grant Waite on the last hole of the 2000 Canadian Open. If you asked me to review that shot in a PowerPoint presentation, I’d draw a graph with a flat reward line (because the $594,000 first-prize check meant nothing to Tiger) and a risk line as steep as Everest (because his ball figured to make a splash before settling on the pond’s murky bottom). But I’d be misstating the risk, because Tiger knew he could pull off that shot.

That leads me to ruminations on Nicklaus, who in his prime was famously strong yet paradoxically cautious, an actuary in spikes. “To watch Nicklaus putt,” I once wrote, “is to watch a diamond cutter at work—three minutes of scrutiny and analysis followed by a single sure stroke resulting in something sparkling.”

I share these thoughts with Nike Golf president Bob Wood, who is sitting in the facing armchair. Wood is an interesting man, an iconoclastic Californian who collects vintage guitars and maintains an impressive wine cellar. He makes the pertinent observation that Tiger, a fitness freak, embraces a diet of chicken breasts and broccoli. “Only it’s four chicken breasts and a bucket of broccoli.”

Tiger’s famous discipline, in other words, is not grounded in abstemiousness.

I am also puzzled by Tiger’s mention of “billionaires”—plural—not making bad decisions. I assume he is close to Nike Sports founder and CEO Phil Knight, who ranks 69th on the Fortune money list with an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion. But Tiger also has the ear of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed, who owns the famed Godolphin racing stables and whose family has a reported net worth of $10 billion, outbid Chinese interests last year for the honor of building the first Tiger Woods-designed golf course. The course, dubbed Al Ruwaya (meaning “serenity”), will anchor an upscale development featuring 20 homes and 300 luxury villas called Tiger Woods-Dubai. It’s just one element of a gargantuan enterprise called Dubailand. Tiger’s cut, if you buy into the rumors, will be as much as $45 million.
It suddenly occurs to me that Tiger, with his line about billionaires, might be talking about himself.

It’s a lovely day at the Emirates Club. . . .
Palms rustle, birds chirp, pile drivers hammer, tractors roar, construction cranes rattle, saws whine, Dumpsters clang, trucks groan, and traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road lays down an ambient layer of white noise.

It’s February 2007, the week of the Dubai Desert Classic, and Dubai is growing. What was vacant desert on my last visit is now a construction project to beggar the imagination. Dozens of skyscrapers are springing up around the Emirates Club course. Twelve-lane freeways coil in serpentine interchanges jammed with backhoes and bulldozers.

I’m seated at a table in a skybox overlooking the 18th green, chatting with a distinguished-looking gentleman dressed in the traditional white robe and gutrah of the desert. He tells me that Tiger and Sheikh Mohammed share certain qualities of character and mind. “They both have vision,” he says. “They are decisive. They enjoy the things they do.” Both men, he adds, are uncompromising. “In his book Sheikh Mohammed writes, ‘Second is a loser.'”

I ask the man in the desert robe if Tiger the businessman is more sociable than Tiger the golfer.

He nods and says, “I sit with him, we eat together, he’s very friendly. Maybe a lot of people think that he’s….” The man hesitates. “It’s not easy for Tiger. Everybody wants something—an autograph, a photograph, an interview, a business deal. His day starts when he comes out of his hotel room, and it doesn’t end until he’s back in his hotel room. Before people judge him, they need to put themselves in his position.”

The man in the desert robe looks uncomfortable, so I change the subject to Al Ruwaya. His smile returns. The deal, he says, has been in the works for more than two years. He says the original site was Palm Jumeirah, a cluster of man-made islands in the Arabian Gulf sculpted to look like a palm tree from the air. He says Sheikh Mohammed vetoed that plan, arguing that it would be redundant to put one landmark—the first Tiger Woods course—on another landmark, the islands. Better that it be built at Dubailand, which will make Disney World look like a petting zoo.

I get nowhere, however, when I press for details about Tiger’s contract with Tatweer, a subsidiary of Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai Holding. Will Tiger be paid up front, or will he collect a royalty on properties in Tiger Woods-Dubai? What is Tiger’s design fee for Al Ruwaya? Does the contract include Tiger’s multimillion-dollar appearance fee for playing in the Dubai Desert Classic?
“Money is not a big issue for Tiger,” says the man in the desert robe. “Nor for us.”

Tiger could use a banana. Or a deck of cards. Or a PlayStation2 running Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2007. . . .

“I hate sitting still,” he says from across the table. “I hate being stale. I’ve always got to be moving. I’ve always got to be challenged.”
He says this while sitting still, but I have no reason to doubt him. Tiger in a conference room is a cat in a cage. Tiger at a press conference is a schoolboy writing I will not talk in class a hundred times on the blackboard.

“Tiger, you’re about to become a father for the first time,” says the reporter in the third row. “Is that going to affect your preparation for the majors?”

“Tiger, you’re an expectant father,” says the perky blonde, waving a foam-covered microphone in his face. “Are you ready for diaper duty?”

“Tiger, the way you were raised by your father is the stuff of legend,” says the long-form writer with crumbs in his beard. “If your firstborn happens to be a son, will you raise him to be a champion or take more of a laissez-faire approach to child rearing?”


If, as Tiger likes to say, “a day without adrenaline is a day wasted,” then a day of meet-and-greet must be pure hell. But those who chart his business course say that Tiger is as competitive wearing a tie as he is in a Sunday-red polo.

“He’s a real pro in either environment,” says Cindy Davis, domestic general manager for Nike Golf. “He has endless energy. Everything to Tiger is an adventure.”

That must be why Tiger is partial to stunts. A few years ago he smacked balls off the helipad of Dubai’s 60-story Burj Al Arab Hotel. Another time he livened up a golf ball commercial by shattering factory windows with precisely aimed five-iron shots.
It is a stunt, in fact, that has drawn a bevy of us faux-auditor types to L.A.’s Hawthorne Airport. On Nov. 28, 2006, the press release promises, Tiger Woods will christen Nike’s squarish Sumo2 driver by hitting balls down the runway. (Hoped-for headline: tiger crushes drive 1,900 yards!)

But when he finally saunters out onto the pavement and starts launching rockets, there is a bit of a letdown. A runway, it turns out, makes drives look less impressive than usual, owing to the absence of a backdrop.

Tiger, though, takes pains not to disappoint. Speaking from a stage in a vacant hangar, he praises Nike across the board—”Now we are a leader in the golf industry”—but concedes that he probably won’t use the Sumo2 in competition. “I do hit it farther, but I launch it a little too high.” (Nike recently recalled the driver after the U.S. Golf Association ruled that some of the clubs exceeded the organization’s testing limits.)

He points to the golf division’s dramatic growth since 1996, the year Nike, Acushnet and American Express plucked him off the Stanford golf team with $12 million of inducements. “Back when we started,” he says, “I think we had a red shirt, a yellow shirt, a blue shirt and a black shirt.” And gosh, when Tiger beat Davis Love III in a playoff at the ’96 Las Vegas Invitational, Love was still using one of those clubs with a wood head and a steel shaft. “We’ve come a long way,” Tiger sums up, giving particular credit to Knight, his billionaire mentor. “It starts from the top. We have a leader that everybody’s excited to work for.”

Ninety minutes later, as our gleaming white G5 banks over Catalina Island and turns tail on the sun, the Nike executives toast each other and sink into their comfy chairs. It will be a short, happy flight to Scottsdale.

You get too close to Tiger and he disappears. . . .

That is ironic, because getting close to Tiger is the reason SI brokered a deal with the PGA of America to put me on Tiger’s pro-am team at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. It’s November 2006, and I’ve just started my Tiger audit. “You guys can talk, get reacquainted,” says one of SI’s top ad sales execs. “Maybe he’ll give you a few minutes on the side.”

So here I am, Mr. 12 Rounds a Year, standing with Tiger and our scramble partners in the fairway of the par-5 2nd hole at the Poipu Bay Golf Club in Poipu Beach, Hawaii. We have a bit of a hanging lie, and I need to fly my five-wood about 225 yards to an elevated green, employing maybe 10 yards of fade against a right-to-left crosswind to fit my ball into an opening between a half dozen bunkers. I also have to consider the influence of Tiger’s gallery, hundreds strong, clutching cameras and pens, whom I imagine to be debating the identity of the beanpole senior with the mainland pallor and green golf glove.

Tiger? He and caddie Steve Williams are a few feet away, but if they were to don ponchos and fly into the Mexican hat dance, I wouldn’t notice.

I misplace Tiger again on the tee of the par-3 3rd, where he smacks a short iron pin-high while I’m trying to choose between a hybrid four and a garden weasel. On another hole a smiling Tiger walks by, saying, “Give me a 6.” (I won’t learn until nightfall that he has just yanked his drive out-of-bounds.) Mostly, though, Tiger is merely a disembodied voice saying, “Good swing there,” when you hit a nice shot.

Any Tour player could have told me: You don’t learn about Tiger when you play golf with him. You learn about yourself.

So it has to wait until the following week, when we meet in that little room at the airport. How, I ask him, does he find time for his business pursuits? How does he keep the orbits of Mark Steinberg, his agent at IMG, and Hank Haney, his swing coach, from crossing?
“It’s a matter of keeping a balance,” Tiger says, his eyes straying to the clock on the wall. “Sometimes in the late evenings I may have to sit down and do some figuring, make a bunch of phone calls, work different avenues. It’s basically nonstop. But it’s mentally stimulating to work like that. The practice time, the tournaments, doing things with my friends and family, the business side … it all blends in.”

I picture Tiger in his home office at midnight—signing documents, firing off faxes, checking his bank statements to make sure Steinberg hasn’t bought Belize without his permission.
He says, “There’s no class to teach you balance. You have to learn on the fly.”

A thunderstorm interrupts second-round play at the Dubai Desert Classic . . .
so I drive my rented SUV into the desert for a look at Dubailand. There isn’t much to see—a rough expanse of coarse sand and gravel dotted with patches of dusty-green scrub and the occasional stunted tree. But then, that’s what the area around the Emirates Golf Club looked like a decade ago. If Dubailand is built according to plan, it will have 55 hotels and the infrastructure to accommodate 200,000 visitors a day.

Tiger had been coy the other day when a European reporter asked if he planned to spend part of his week in the desert, stepping off yardages and planting little red flags. (“I’ll probably go out to the site and take a look,” Tiger said.) His nascent design team, however, is huddling with the Tatweer staff at the Emirates Club. Tiger’s man on the ground is his childhood friend and high school teammate Bryon Bell, who caddied for Tiger on occasion before going to work at the Tiger Woods Foundation.

There is understandable curiosity about Tiger’s foray into course design. Typically, a champion golfer either partners with an established golf architect—Arnold Palmer with Ed Seay, for example, or Ben Crenshaw with Bill Coore—or hires a staff of practiced landscape engineers and architects a la Jack Nicklaus, whose design company has produced 310 courses in 30 countries. Tiger would seem to be leaning toward the latter model (he took advantage of Nicklaus’s generous offer to let Bell visit his North Palm Beach offices to study the golf course operation), but he turns vague when asked who will actually read the topographical maps and produce the construction drawings.

In L.A., Tiger had assured me, “I will not be hiring some guy to design a golf course. I’ll be hands on and involved in it.”
He was more forthcoming about his design philosophy. “My tastes are toward the old and traditional. I’m a big fan of the Aussie-built courses in Melbourne, the sand-belt courses. I’m also a tremendous fan of some of the courses in our Northeast.” Tiger didn’t name those courses, but I mentally ticked off some classic layouts that he probably likes: The Country Club, Shinnecock Hills, Merion, Baltusrol, Winged Foot.

“I’m not one who thoroughly enjoys playing point B to point C to point D golf,” he continued. “The courses I like are the ones where you have the option to play different shots. I enjoy working the ball on the ground and using different avenues.”
“Like Royal Liverpool?” I asked, naming the English course on which Tiger won the 2006 British Open using a 19th-century arsenal of low, scooting tee shots (played almost exclusively with irons and fairway metals) and ground-hugging approaches.

He smiled at the memory. “Liverpool this year and St. Andrews in 2000 are the only times I’ve seen the fairways faster than the greens. You hit a putt from the fairway, it was running one speed. It got to the green, the putt slowed down.” His smile broadened. “That’s not like most golf courses, but that’s what I like to see. It fits my eye.”

Now, walking on the Arabian desert under dark, roiling clouds, I pause to squint, to fit my eyes to the scrubby slopes and narrow washes of Tiger’s blank canvas, trying to see a golf course.
Pretty soon, I see it.

Tiger says the two years he spent at Stanford are starting to pay off. . . .
“I was majoring in econ, but the econ I was learning was your supply-and-demand curve, monetary policy. It was mostly math,” he says. “I was never going to be an economic analyst or anything like that, but some of it is starting to become applicable now, as I start to get into the business.”

I want to dazzle Tiger with some of my own financial acumen—how I bought Garmin at 17.50 and Apple at 21 before the split—but I’m afraid he might have heard that I drive a hail-damaged ’94 Volvo. Instead I ask if he has ever sought business advice from Nicklaus, Palmer or Gary Player, the original Big Three of ancillary income. “I have not talked to them,” he says.

I can tell, though, that he knows what I know—that the Big Three, while wealthy and widely admired in business circles, have found commerce to be a cruder and meaner game than golf. Nicklaus suffered losses to his bottom line and reputation in the late 1990s when his publicly traded Golden Bear Golf Inc. tanked because of accounting irregularities at a course-construction subsidiary. Palmer got dragged into ugly litigation in the late ’80s when his partner in a chain of Arnold Palmer car dealerships was brought down on fraud charges, and again in ’90 when homeowners near Florida’s ritzy Isleworth community (where Tiger would later move) won a $6.6 million judgment against Palmer and his development partners over lakefront pollution and flooding.

Player, too, has had setbacks, most notably with Gary Player, an e-commerce company that lost millions in the dotcom fever of the late ’90s. And while all three have ventured into the golf equipment business, none of their signature club lines has ever captured more than a tiny share of the U.S. market.

“It all depends on how much risk you want to take on,” Tiger says. “Arnold has dibble-dabbled in a bunch of different things, but he’s never put himself at complete risk, where the other two basically have. You can reap the rewards by doing that. Or you can get shelled.” He shrugs. “Obviously, I don’t go into much risk.”

The next day, as we leave Scottsdale and continue our flight over the American heartland in the Nike corporate jet, I ask Bob Wood for an appraisal of Tiger Woods, businessman.

“Tiger is a sponge,” he says. “He has an incredible memory, and he’s had years to soak up information from people who work for large companies.” Wood pauses, as if waiting for a presentation graphic. “Whatever he gets into, he gets into all the way. Right now, it’s skiing. He’s a nut for skiing, and every time I talk to him he knows more about skiing. That’s how he is.” He pauses again, letting me savor the mental image of Tiger in goggles pursuing his wife, an accomplished skier, down a black diamond.
“He’s a complete control freak. He always wants to determine the outcome.”

I nod.

“He’s very comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t have a posse. He doesn’t walk around with a bunch of yes-men.”

I nod.

“He’s smart enough to know that every strength is a weakness.”
That one is sufficiently Zen to stop my nodding. “Is he a new Tiger?” I ask. “Is he playing more than one game?”
“Well, he’s running the foundation, now that his father is gone. That’s a pretty daunting part-time gig for a 31-year-old.” Wood shakes his head. “But no, he’s still focused on winning majors.”

Of course he is. But Tiger doesn’t sleep a lot . . .
and if he can use those otherwise wasted hours before dawn to, say, plot a white-knight takeover of a PGA Tour event….
Or perhaps I should call it a coup, inasmuch as the AT&T National, scheduled to debut in or near Washington, D.C., around the Fourth of July, will be played within eavesdropping range of the White House.

“If you ever have to choose between announcing a golf tournament sponsorship or testifying before Congress,” AT&T chairman Ed Whitacre says at a March 7 press conference with Tiger and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, “my advice to you is to take the golf tournament.”

The new event, hosted by Tiger and run by and benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation, replaces the International in Castle Rock, Colo., which folded in February after 21 years.

Here’s where an auditor has to get creative. Looking at first quarter 2007, I see that Tiger’s seven-event PGA Tour winning streak ended on Feb. 23, when he lost to Nick O’Hern at the Accenture Match Play. But there’s no compensating line item for Tiger’s 10-and-8 reaming of International founder Jack Vickers in the Who-Gets-to-Host-a-Tour-Event Classic.

The 81-year-old Vickers, a one-time oil tycoon, is the guy who complained that Tiger’s failure to play in his tournament since 1999 had halved television ratings and made it impossible to land a title sponsor. “If something isn’t done,” Vickers tells me over a bowl of asparagus soup at Castle Pines Golf Club in February, “you’re not going to have a Tour. Right now, it’s a one-man show.”

Yes, I think, and as an astute Wall Street analyst once shouted at Tiger, “You da man!”

In any event, I’m checking commodity prices on Bloomberg TV the other day when the network runs video of Tiger, in coat and tie, paying courtesy calls to House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Then Tiger is behind a nest of microphones, explaining how he and his dad had always dreamed of running their own Tour event. And because Earl had been a Vietnam vet and a career soldier, Tiger’s thrilled to be hosting a tournament celebrating America’s birthday while honoring America’s warriors who, by the way, will be offered free admission to the tournament, as will children under 12.

At this point there must have been a technical foul-up, because there is no video of fireworks bursting over the Washington Monument. But Finchem and Whitacre are practically floating off the dais, and I’m reaching for my checkbook to contribute to the Tiger Woods for President exploratory committee.

Bloomberg moves on, but I picture Tiger stepping back from the podium and delivering one of his signature fist pumps.

I thumb a message to Vickers on my Blackberry, quoting Andy Grove, the cofounder and former chairman of Intel.
Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.
Maybe I should send it to Finchem instead.

Jason Gore likes the view from 45,000 feet. The feel of it too. He’s a big man, so the padded armrests and generous legroom provide a level of luxury he could only dream about two years ago, when he was driving his wife and infant son to Nationwide tour stops in a car packed with practically everything the family owned.

One night, at a motel in Asheville, N.C., someone broke into the car and took everything. But, hey, this is America. A week later Gore’s mug was as familiar as Suze Orman’s—thanks to his play at the U.S. Open. Three months later Gore had three straight Nationwide wins, a promotion to the PGA Tour and a stunning victory at the 84 Lumber Classic. So now he’s a winner, like Tiger, and can cross his legs as he soars above Ohio in the G5.

“We’re all little kids at heart,” says Gore. I think of Tiger at 16, excited about a puppy and anxious to join Pops and his mom for a chain-store pizza.

An hour later the plane touches down in Teterboro, N.J., and we pile into a shuttle for the ride to lower Manhattan and the World Financial Center. It’s the last stop on the Sumo2 tour, and Gore’s job is to answer reporters’ questions and then smack balls in one of two cages set up in an atrium bright with Christmas lights and potted poinsettias.

He’s a natural at this, and hundreds of brokers, executives and office workers stop to watch on their way out, some of them stepping into the cages to hit a few balls. I watch for a while and then stroll over to the glass wall to take in the big view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses….

I wonder where Tiger is and what he’s doing.

So here’s my final accounting: Tiger Woods, in fiscal 2006, earned $11,941,827 in prize money and roughly $90 million from appearance fees, endorsements, corporate outings, speaking engagements, books, licensing fees, instructional videos and Tiger Woods-branded products ranging from wine to grass seed. His income from stocks and other investments is harder to gauge; based on the results of my own closely managed portfolio, I estimate that he made another $600, minimum.

Working, then, from an estimated income of $101,942,427—and basing my calculations on a 52-week year and a federally mandated five-day work week of eight hours a day—I value my 10 minutes of Tiger’s undivided attention at $8,168.46.
Past performance, of course, does not guarantee future results.