Tiger Woods is a marvel of athletic precision and single-minded dedication. His recent string of five consecutive PGA victories prompted some analysts to contemplate the impossible: a perfect season.
That dream ended March 24 in Miami when Woods made par on the final hole of the WGC-CA Championship to finish two shots back of winner Geoff Ogilvy. But it was a day earlier, while the winning streak remained intact, that the world's best golfer delivered a more noteworthy shortcoming. It was then, on the ninth hole, that he unleashed a profanity-laced tirade after a camera shutter snapped during his backswing. Woods threatened to break the neck of the next photographer guilty of that journalistic sin.
In many ways, the moment typified the man. For all his success, Woods remains passionate about winning golf tournaments, consumed with surpassing past greats and etching his name in the annals of superstardom. Distractions or threats to that agenda meet his ruthless disdain.
Later, when pressed by media to explain the undue vitriol of his outburst, Woods forwent the opportunity to apologize in favor of justifying his actions: "Each time it's happened, well three out of four times, I made bogey," he said of the mid-swing camera clicks he's experienced this year. "You have no idea what's been said on the golf course all the time, in any sport really. It was the heat of the moment."
But it is precisely the heat of such moments that reveals true character. Woods routinely delivers athletic greatness in the heat of the back nine on Sundays and has never cited pressure or stress to excuse poor play over that critical stretch. On the contrary, he prides himself on rising to such occasions.
Not that anyone should expect perfection from the man. The notion of sinless speech is even more ridiculous than an undefeated season. But the challenge to take responsibility for mistakes is one to which all champions should rise. Woods does so for crooked drives and might do likewise for crooked words.
Spice of Curry
Underdog lovers, take heart. Stephen Curry, the sophomore guard who captivated America during Davidson's improbable run to the Elite Eight, is planning to stick around for his junior season-in hopes of busting a few million more brackets this time next year.
Of course, NCAA tournament prognosticators will see him coming in 2009 on a Davidson team that retains most of its critical pieces. And expectations of an encore to match this year's performance might prove out of court. Curry spiced last month's madness with single-game point totals of 40, 30, 33, and 25. His slashes to the rim and 3-point proficiency led the 10th-seeded Wildcats to upset victories over Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin before the run ended with a 59-57 loss to top-seeded Kansas.
Through it all, Curry deflected glory to his maker: After his 40-point performance in the opening round, he explained to reporters why he points skyward after made shots: "I play for God, and I give all the glory to Him. That's why I point like that. It's kind of my thing now." Written in black marker across the red outline of Curry's shoes: "I can do all things . . ."
The boundless optimism of baseball in the spring fills players, coaches, and fans with hope that this could be the year. Slugger Barry Bonds is hoping such optimism fades enough for at least one team to bite on his still potent bat, which delivered 28 home runs and a .480 on-base percentage for the Giants last year. But for the first time in his life, Bonds needs baseball more than it needs him. What general manager could possibly conclude that a little left-handed pop in the lineup is worth all the attendant distractions of signing the predominant symbol of baseball's steroid age?