Giving Golf What Fore!

Tiger, Tiger, still burning bright.

But this summer, some grumbling has also emerged -- from players tired of getting hot and dirty scuffling for second place and traditionalist fans who think the game is turning into a one-man show lacking the drama of old. Among the recent complainants: Australian star Greg Norman and Tour regular Stewart Cink, who carp (albeit gently) that most of the media attention is now focused on Woods, and that the game is suffering as a result. Tiger's nearest rivals, Ernie Els (who's finished second to him three times this year), David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are fast running out of compliments, and the strain of all the Tiger Talk is showing even next door on the women's tour. There, Karrie Webb has proven herself almost as dominant as Woods is with the boys, but she's clearly tired of the comparisons: "He doesn't have to answer these same questions every week," she recently snapped.

Fellow golfer Strange talks about distortions in the Tiger effect. "There really is a Tiger Tour and a regular tour," he said the night Garcia upset a feverish Woods in match play. "I hate to say it, because the Tour is my life. But it's true."

On the other hand, why the hell not? Why shouldn't this young colossus stand apart -- especially in a sport that for generations has needed a major social overhaul? Until 1961, the PGA Tour itself excluded "non-Caucasians" from play, and most of the nation's country clubs kept blacks out long after that. With Tiger's emergence as the game's first major African-American star (and, because his mother is Thai, its first Asian-American star), golf itself has had to yield some of its old yellow-trousered, whites-only legacy, and only the most regressive crackpots in the land refuse to applaud that. "I'd like to see golf look more like the country looks," Woods has said, and he puts his money where his mouth is. The Tiger Woods Foundation focuses on developing golf, and golf-related business, in minority communities.

Out on the links, Tiger seems destined to surpass Nicklaus's previously untouchable record of eighteen wins in major tournaments, to create even larger armies of supporters and (like the Yankees) dissidents, and to dominate his peers like no player before him. Already, he's set an awesome standard. Asked what he'd have to shoot to win this year's PGA, one tour pro answered, with a grin: "Tiger Woods."

Is he "ruining" the game? Maybe. More power to him. In time, perhaps, the Wongluekiet twins will be along to put it back together again.

How'd you like to spend this Sunday afternoon in scenic Oakland, California? For the first time in years, there will be some there there -- at least for Broncos fans. Following a thrilling comeback win over big-deal Indianapolis, Al Davis's glowering Oakland Raiders are a heady 2-0, and suddenly the ancient Denver-Oakland rivalry, as freighted with anger and blood as a Mafia vendetta, has taken on real meaning again. The injury-plagued Broncos won just six games last season, but two of them were against Oakland, and therein lay much of the Black-and-Silver's own disappointing finish.

A pair of resurgents, these teams are likely to provide one of the great early-season matchups. After losing that track meet to world-champion St. Louis, the Broncos took their frustration out on Dan Reeves's Atlanta club 42-14, but knocking off the surly Davis and his Bad Boys by the Bay would provide Mike Shanahan (a grudge-bearer if there ever was one) even greater satisfaction. And it would prove that -- go ahead, dare to say it -- Brian Griese's Broncos are for real.

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