Tiger Woods’ career has endured a surfeit of segments: Late night appearances, amateur domination, initial storming of the PGA Tour, TIGER SLAM, swing change, continued success, OW MY KNEE, more winning, another swing change, 4-Iron to the face, secret reconstructive surgery, sponsor loss, hilariously awkward press conference, image rehabilitation, complete swing overhaul, missed cuts, steady improvement, can’t putt, can’t close, can’t win. When Tiger’s life inevitably ends up on the silver screen – a good producer will know which segments to cut for time – this will be the skeleton rundown of what needs to be covered if Tiger had spontaneously combusted before last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Don’t laugh: dozens of people spontaneously combust each year, it’s just not, really, widely reported.
Fortunately for Tiger, he didn’t end up a green stain etched into someone’s carpet; he instead claimed victory at Bay Hill. His first PGA victory in 27 Tour events – 923 days – ushering in the next chapter of Woods’ story – his return to dominance. Since, Tiger’s won another four times over a 12-month stretch, climbing back to No. 2 in the world rankings – after sinking to No. 58 in Nov. 2011 – briskly bridging the gap between himself and No. 1 Rory McIlroy. Even if Woods doesn’t catch Rory post-haste, he’s clearly reestablished himself as the worldwide leader in laying the smackdown on the links. Another win, or loss for that matter, won’t affect this phase of Woods’ life, unless he never wins again I suppose. The inception of the next period doesn’t begin until he finally bags Major number 15 – Tiger’s pursuit of Jack’s 18 – which could commence April 14. But until it happens, we have to treat Tiger’s career like it’s not the proper time of day in Ocarina of Time: focusing our attention on smaller narratives and side quests until that stupid platitude spewing owl comes and tells us to move on, hoot hoot. So embrace the little things: His stalking of Sam Snead’s 82 wins or attempt to conquer Bay Hill for an eighth time like he’s freakin Charlemagne.
OR we can dive back into his personal life because, lets face it, that’s what we really want. Eariler this week, Tiger announced through his Facebook page that he’s currently shacking up with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, amorously stating, “I don’t plan on addressing this further as I would like to keep that part of my life between us, my family and close friends.” Announcing it on the world’s largest social media site, maybe not the best idea. This does seem like a great move for Woods though, pairing up with another world-class competitor. She ain’t rough on the eyes either. But while he’s closed the divide with Rory on the course, I’m not certain he’s done the same with his athletic arm candy. Vonn’s definitely foxy, that’s not up for debate; but is she on par with Caroline Wozniacki? A few days ago, I would have nodded my head in agreement so quickly you would have thought the army had done some experiment on me that went terribly wrong – MIND YA BIDNESS… just mind ya bidness – But then The Woz released her ‘This is Me’ underwear line, and now I don’t know what to think.
You be the judge.
Clearly, both Tiger and Rory picked gals with mindsets similar to their own, one’s whose professional goals are in unison and have compatible competitive natures. You do lose a degree of hotness in translation, though. It’s the reason the term “athlete hot” exists, it’s attractive cousin of “athlete funny”. If you’re searching for the first lady of golf babes, take a look at whom Webb Simpson put a ring on.
Nice work Webb. You gotta lock that down.
Dowd Simpson’s the champ, unless you favor youth. If that’s the case, Dustin Johnson’s current squeeze, Instagram darling and daughter of the Great One, Paulina Gretzky, has positioned herself atop the pedestal.
If you’d like to continue gawking at Gretzky I suggest you go here. God bless dem internets.
But maybe she too doesn’t meet your qualifications – weirdo – you’re one of the few that was oddly turned on by People Who Look Like Things. The search is no more – Justin Rose’s wife is your dame. What exactly does she look like? Justin Rose. They could really be siblings.
Tiger Woods & Graeme McDowell – Tiger and GMac both come in hot, and seeing them paired again is more likely than not. They played together in the final group two weeks ago, just like here last year, when they finished best in show. Sick rhymes aside, these are the two favorites.
Ernie Els – Els has an excellent track record at Bay Hill. He won this event in 2010, and needing at least a solo third last year to have an experience like no other, finished fourth – bad for him, fine for Fantasy players. There are lingering concerns his wonky hip will limit his efforts on the course, but Els dispelled those rumors in his blog this week – yes, even with a crippling lack of popular demand, Ernie Els writes a blog – saying his absence at Doral was, “just a case of taking it easy last week and getting some treatment to try to get this sorted. The good news is it feels a bit better and that means I can tee it up this week at Bay Hill”.
Other interesting tidbits? His friend, Marvin Shanken, runs Els’ Autism Pro-Am while publishing both Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado as his day job; odd mix, and he’s feeling “good vibes” right now. I too am sensing some positive energy from Els. Now, if he could only sue Bill Murray and get the rights to the nickname “Big” Ern, I’d make him my lock of the epoch.
Graham DeLaet – The Canadian hasn’t finished lower than 18th since the Florida swing started and has posted four consecutive Top 20s overall. Plus, DeLaet (somehow pronounced DUH-LET) possesses the single skill most beneficial for success at Bay Hill: driving distance. Standing just 5’11” and 165 lbs – 1.80 m and 75 kg, in Canuck speak – DeLaet gets every ounce of force out of his big stick, ranking 18th on Tour off the tee.
Keegan Bradley – Guess who ranks one spot behind DeLaet in driving distance. If you said “Keegan Bradley”, you’ve clearly played this game before. In his last two turns Keegs has churned out 7th and 4th place finishes.
Ian Poulter – Know this: I have an unhealthy affinity for Poulter. I’m a huge fan of his arrogant visors, swagged out hairdo, stylish sartorial selections, hilarious accent, contempt towards American galleries and general snotty behavior. Oh, his putting too, I like that. Poulter’s masterful with the flat stick, and at a course that can make usually consistent ball strikers look foolish, making up strokes on the green is essential to contention.
Justin Rose & Lee Westwood – Crikey, more Brits! If their 1776 countrymen had been as successful as these two, our money would sport the Queen and be far more valuable, “plow” would have remained in its more pretentious form – “plough” – and we’d all have visceral reactions at the first mention of fluoride.
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Getty photo, by Mike Ehrmann