Summer review: Book delves deep into Tiger Woods’ life

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 15: Tiger Woods warms up on the driving range prior to the first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 15, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Summer review: Book delves deep into Tiger Woods’ life

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Summer review: Book delves deep into Tiger Woods’ life

In recounting Tiger Woods’ precipitous fall from grace in late 2009, the authors of a new biography shared a startling piece of trivia: “For 21 consecutive days, Tiger appeared on the cover of the New York Post, surpassing the previous record of 20 consecutive covers devoted to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

No one would dare suggest that Woods’ personal foibles approached the level of seriousness of 9/11, but that statistic does hint at his outsized influence on American popular culture. To this day, a decade and four back surgeries removed from winning his last major, Woods maintains a unique hold on the American psyche. Think about that the next time you’re watching a golf tournament on TV and Woods is getting so much airtime when he’s five shots off the lead on the back nine Sunday.

Tiger Woods” is an exhaustively researched and meticulously footnoted biography from Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, who previously teamed up on “The System,” which explored the seamier side of college football. Their new book tracks Woods’ life from birth – one of the earliest images is of toddler Tiger sitting in his high chair, watching his father spend hours beating balls into a practice net in the family’s garage – to his appearance at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open, which enjoyed a predictable ratings spike because of his presence.

There is no shortage of books on Woods, but none this ambitious in scope or detail. This is a decidedly unauthorized biography; Benedict and Keteyian knew from the outset not only that the closely guarded Woods camp would fight their efforts, but that many people on the periphery of Woods’ universe also would be reluctant to cooperate.

Woods’ team continued the fight after publication. Mark Steinberg, his agent, and Glenn Greenspan, his spokesman, charged that the book is “littered with egregious errors.”

“(They) cited nine errors … and these are errors we could debate,” Keteyian said during an appearance on ESPN, noting that some were trivial matters, such as the name of a tournament. But the authors said they “stand by the accuracy of our reporting.”

“If we have made any inadvertent typographical or factual errors, we will correct them in future printings of the book.”

(See their complete statement below)

“Tiger Woods” plows some new ground, but what it does best is provide a richer, more textured look at their subject’s entire life, from childhood through his rise and fall on the PGA Tour.

“Tiger Woods” – By Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian; 512 pages; hardcover; Simon & Schuster

Early on, we see Woods as the gifted high school nerd whose first girlfriend, Dina Gravell, doesn’t even realize that she’s dating a prodigy until she visits his home and sees all of Tiger’s trophies and framed stories about his golf exploits. Earl Woods, never reticent when discussing his son, showed the flabbergasted Gravell TV features on Tiger from his pre-school days.

This was the appealing young man sports fans first met in his mid-teens. “He didn’t try to be popular,” Gravell recalled. “He didn’t try to stick out. He was just a gentleman.”

It seems a bit of a reach for the authors to describe Earl, a deeply flawed man who died in 2006, as Tiger’s “North Star.” His mother, Tida, who demanded a killer instinct on the course and discipline off it, seems better suited to that role. Some of Earl’s vices – his affairs, his stingy nature, his sense of entitlement – were reflected in his son, only on a grander scale.

Woods’ high school clique of overachievers included Bryon Bell, who imagined one day serving as doctor to the world’s greatest golfer, though ultimately his most intricate operations involved arranging Tiger’s trysts during his world travels. Woods apparently had a habit of trashing his Masters rental home, then balking at paying for the clean-up. PGA Tour representatives felt the need to trail behind Woods, handing out C-notes to locker-room attendants and others he had stiffed.

If you weren’t on Team Tiger, you were an opponent to be scorned. There was no middle ground. That mindset has worked to legendary effect on the course, but not in day-to-day relationships.

As the authors wrote: “For being such an important figure in the lives of so many, Woods seemed to always fall short in his personal relationships. It was the curse of his genius. His mind was always consumed by his own quests. … The secret to Tiger’s dominance was that he was the most one-dimensional human being on the PGA Tour. The game was his life. He wasn’t prepared for life without the game.”

He faced that prospect, though successful back surgery fortunately seems to have granted him a reprieve. The authors believe him to be “a changed man.” If so, there probably will be space a decade from now for another fascinating biography chronicling this third act of Woods’ Tour career. Gwk


(Note: This is the full statement from Mark Steinberg, Excel Sports Management and Glenn Greenspan, VP Communications, TGR Ventures, regarding the book:

We have seen on social media, and have been contacted by numerous people, concerned with the tone, accuracy and facts represented in the recent book about Tiger Woods.

These are among our objections after a cursory review:;

This book is just a re-hash from older books and articles and it’s hard to tell if there’s anything original at all. The section on notes, (p. 410) where other writings are referenced, takes up 60 single-spaced pages. The authors even crib from Tiger’s book last year, the 1997 Masters, more than 80 times in almost half the chapters, 21 times in Chapter 11 alone.

The author’s claim “we seldom quoted anonymous sources”  yet they relied on them at least 65 times.

The book is also littered with egregious errors.  It describes Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer applauding at a dinner they never attended (p. 153), gets the ending wrong from the 1995 US Amateur (p. 97), gives tournaments (p. 130) and even the Tour the wrong names (p.146 and 287)  quotes a broadcaster who wasn’t present at an event (p. 217), gets the name of Tiger’s college golf coach wrong (10 times beginning on p. 38), invents a press gathering that didn’t occur (p. 320), and portrays Tom Watson captaining the 2016 US Ryder Cup Team (p. 392).  And those are just a few of the careless mistakes that jumped out at first glance despite the writers claiming they worked on the book for three years.

A claim of supposedly new reporting by the authors pertaining to President Clinton and Tiger has proven to be false by a former deputy assistant and Counselor to the President who was present at the events described. Instead of admitting their mistake, the authors stand by yet more anonymous sources.

So if the authors can’t even manage basic truth and accuracy on matters like that, then why should readers take anything else in this work seriously?

Most of the thoughts and feelings that they attribute to Tiger are either second-hand or flat out made up. It’s hard to imagine that two guys who have never met or spoken to Tiger can legitimately guess what he or his family were thinking. Just a few examples among dozens are: claiming that Tiger “needed to feel the bond with his father”, but Tiger wrote that he needed help with his putting, p. 145, asserting that David Duval was on Tiger’s mind in 1998/1999, even though Tiger would “never admit it publicly”, p. 183, pretending to know how Tiger “certainly felt” as he removed his knee brace in Park City, p. 253, and made-up an internal monologue in the opening round in 2018 at Torrey Pines, p. 403.   .

They insist that they “provide a wealth of new insight,” but without any input from Tiger, Tida Woods, Mark Steinberg or those closest to him, that’s obviously impossible.  It’s clear the sources they actually rely on are people that haven’t spoken or interacted with Tiger for many years, most with ulterior motives.

The authors’ description of our interaction with them is also demonstrably false.  We asked for an opportunity to hear assertions and specifics made about Tiger and provide a comment if we deemed it necessary, which is a completely routine journalistic practice.  In fact, every serious news outlet requires it when a source is saying something disparaging about the subject. (“I am asking for your assurance that we will have the opportunity to review, and may choose to comment on, any assertions regarding Mr. Woods that the authors may make. This is the most basic journalistic standard.” Email on 1/19/16 to Jonathan Karp, President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster.)   But the authors provided no detail whatsoever, only a few broad generalities.  Even worse, they did zero fact checking with us of any kind. That’s a completely irresponsible approach.  They gave us no chance whatsoever to verify any of the material, which resulted in a long string of errors in the book.)

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