Stop the Presses! How Tiger's vanilla remark became absolutely sensational

Stop the Presses! How Tiger’s vanilla remark became absolutely sensational

Tiger Woods at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Monday
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND — The best job in journalism? It has to be headline writer for a British tabloid.

Really, I’d love to be the guy or gal who slapped TIGER’S TORMENT atop this morning’s Daily Mail story about Woods’s Sunday morning practice round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Or the hysteric who chose OH MY GOD, in 58-point type, to lead off the Daily Record’s pithy take on the same subject.

The neat thing about tabloidese is that once you’ve learned the formula, you can crank out headlines faster than YouTube posts cute-cat videos. You simply take a simple assertion, such as “Jones Would Cherish an Open Victory,” and put it through the purple-prose grinder until it comes out as JONESIES’ BOAST: THE CLARET JUG IS MINE!

That’s how the Times of London, a broadsheet, came up with this morning’s UNPLAYABLE — WOODS GIVES HIS DAMNING VERDICT ON LYTHAM AFTER PRACTICE ROUND. (Note the effective use of “damning,” a 16th-century word that was a workhorse in the waning decades of the Spanish Inquisition.) A little less imaginatively, The Sun woke up its readers with TIGER: THIS IS UNPLAYABLE and a subhead, LYTHAM’S SO ROUGH.

The story, if you’re curious, was that a private jet carrying Woods touched down at Blackpool Airport at 7:30 on Sunday morning. Roughly an hour later he teed off at Royal Lytham, and five hours after that he signed autographs and conducted an impromptu press conference, where he commented on the soft condition of the course. Asked about the rough, Woods responded, “Oh my God! It’s just that you can’t get out of it. The bottom six inches is so lush. The wispy stuff, we’ve always found that at every Open. But that bottom six inches, in some places it’s almost unplayable.”

This was hardly news. It has been raining in Lancashire for weeks, and anybody with a brain knows that this Open’s participants will encounter soggy fairways and dense rough. Woods qualified his assessment with “in some places” and “almost” and then threw in the observation that unpredictable conditions were what made the Open “my favorite major championship.”

The desk man at The Daily Telegraph must have chortled when he read that. He quickly converted it to NOW EVEN TIGER IS GRUMBLING ABOUT THE WEATHER. (Nobody in the U.K. ever “says” something. Tabloid people mutter, bark, whine, whimper, shout, snarl, sob, gasp or blubber.)

If you took the bait and read the articles, you got Tiger’s actual remarks, faithfully transcribed by the reporters. That didn’t stop the Daily Star’s man from opening thus: “Tiger Woods took one look at Royal Lytham yesterday and declared this week’s Open Championship course ‘unplayable.’” (He didn’t.) The Daily Record, while noting that Woods signed autographs “in a rare charm offensive,” observed that he “was less polite about the knee-high rough in Lancashire.”

Knee-high rough? Wouldn’t that be almost unplayable?

To sum up, Tiger Woods arrived yesterday, played a practice round, and found the rough to be very deep. And he said as much. Scandalous.