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Rediff.com  » Sports » The ups and downs of life as Tiger

The ups and downs of life as Tiger

March 09, 2004 11:07 IST
Given the choice, most amateur golfers would not dream of trading places with Tiger Woods.

Unquestionably they would dearly love to possess his skill for the game, but very few would want to live his life in the media goldfish bowl that has become his home.

Tiger WoodsLike certain royals and a few movie stars, world number one Woods has to contend with ever-present flashbulbs, jostling crowds and persistent autograph hunters.

His face has become one of the most recognisable on the planet and he has to choose very carefully where he goes in his spare time. He is also an intensely private man, who yearns for the anonymity that is now denied him.

"One of the things that I certainly miss from back in my college days is anonymity," he said during last year's U.S. PGA Championship at Oak Hill. "It would be nice to have that and be as successful as I have been, but you can't have both."

That is the downside. Though, a number of perks are available to the eight-times major winner, who has ushered in an era of multi-million dollar endorsements and lucrative appearance money since he turned professional in late 1996.

As the saying goes, money makes money and, when Tiger Woods is in town, you can bet your bottom dollar that more than just the red carpet will be rolled out for him.

The game's leading player, widely tipped to become sport's first billionaire, will always have to attend to one or two golf clinics and a bit of glad-handing with sponsors after being paid vast sums of appearance money to grace a tournament.

CHOICE PERKS

Generally, though, a few choice perks will be thrown in for him to leaven the mix.

In his spare time, Woods loves to go fishing and scuba diving and he also possesses the thirst of a young boy to try most things that smack of adventure.

At last week's Dubai Desert Classic, where he completed what he described as a "decent week" by tying for fifth at 12-under 276, the world number benefited from a wide range of perks.

Some were purely for the benefit of the sponsors, but a couple were right up his alley in terms of their uniqueness and sheer pleasure.

Last Tuesday, after spending 18 hours flying through 12 time zones in his private jet from California to Dubai, Woods was required to perform one of the more unusual publicity stunts of his career.

With a cameraman in position to capture the moment, Tiger was taken to a helicopter pad at the top of the world's tallest hotel and, from an elevated tee of 321 metres, he drove several golf balls into the waters of the Arabian Gulf below.

The sponsors were happy, and so too was Woods. The hotel, the remarkable seven-star Burj Al Arab, was also his home for the week.

He and his Swedish fiancée Elin Nordegren, the former nanny whom he has dated for the last two-and-half years, stayed in the fabulous royal suite in Dubai's most striking landmark.

STANDING SENTINEL

Soaring more than 1,000 feet into the air, the glistening white hotel is constructed in the shape of a dhow sail and stands sentinel on a man-made island just off Dubai's Jumeirah Beach.

Almost certainly, though, the greatest highlight of Tiger's week was his flying visit with his good buddy Mark O'Meara to the USS George Washington in the Arabian Gulf last Wednesday.

The pair flew from Bahrain by military jet to the aircraft carrier and spent an hour and a half visiting American troops and giving a golf clinic.

"I wanted to come out here because I was raised in the military, with my father being in the army, and I understand the sacrifices he made for our country," Woods told his appreciative audience.

"I understand all the sacrifices you are making for our country, and I want to honour that."

Woods described his meeting with the troops as "one of the most awe-inspiring afternoons of my life" and gained immense pleasure from being whisked to and from the George Washington in the jet.

"You're kind of strapped in pretty good, you have a helmet and life-jacket and, when you're catapulted off the deck, you hit 2-1/2 Gs," said O'Meara. "That's a pretty good force.

"As soon as we swung off the aircraft carrier, Tiger looked over and said: 'Yeah, let's do that again'."

Woods was reportedly paid $3 million to appear in the Dubai Desert Classic, but there is little doubt his drives off the helicopter pad and flying trip to the George Washington were richer experiences.

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