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So now we know: The way to stop Tiger Woods is to deprive him
of his cartoons.

That was the big revelation to come out of Woods's victory on
Sunday at the Motorola Western Open. He arrived at Cog Hill Golf
& Country Club, outside Chicago, stuck in the first slump of his
PGA Tour career (all 10 months of it), having failed to break
par in 11 of his previous 12 rounds. After sleepwalking through
the last round of the Buick Classic on June 22, Woods pronounced
himself burned out from a taxing schedule and repaired to his
condominium in Orlando for a week's holiday. It was Woods's
first real break since the much-publicized Clinton-spurning
vacation that followed his coronation at the Masters. "All I did
was lie on the couch, watch TV and be a couch potato," Woods
said on the eve of the Western.

What did he watch? "Cartoons," his mom, Tida, reported on Sunday
night, while furiously scribbling autographs for fans desperate
for any piece of the Woods lineage. "Spiderman, that's the one
he likes the most. If he gets enough time to watch his cartoons,
that means he is not going to lose."

There's a little more to it than that, but there's no denying
the superhero quality to Woods's accomplishments. Owing to a
rusty driver, he was not as overpowering as usual at Cog Hill,
but he did pull off a great escape. Woods didn't seize his first
outright lead of the tournament until the 8th hole of the final
round, and when he stepped to the 12th tee, he was tied again,
with Justin Leonard and Steve Lowery. Then he zoomed out of
sight with birdies on three of the next four holes. His
67-72-68-68-275 was three shots clear of runner-up Frank Nobilo
and good for his fourth victory of the season and sixth in 21
tournaments as a pro. Woods's $360,000 payday pushed his 1997
Tour-best earnings to $1,761,033, less than $20,000 from the
single-season record Tom Lehman established last year. "He's
making it look so easy, it's scary," Nobilo said after
Saturday's third round.

In truth, the real Woods story is how hard it has all
become--not in terms of putting the ball in the hole but in
coping with everything that comes with his remarkable
proficiency at doing so. With only the slightest of nods to his
sharp iron play and clutch putting, Woods attributed his victory
at the Western to one thing: "I'm fresh," he says. "It's that

There is historical evidence to back up that assertion, inasmuch
as a 21-year-old can have a history. His four victories this
year have all come after he took at least one week off. When he
had the chance to follow up his mid-May win at the GTE Byron
Nelson Classic, outside Dallas, with another the following week
at the MasterCard Colonial, in nearby Fort Worth, he faded in
the final round, fumbling a two-stroke lead and beginning that
untoward streak during which he kept shooting scores north of
par. (Of course, Woods made the 35-mile trek from Dallas to Fort
Worth by way of New York City, where on the day after his Nelson
victory he announced a $13 million endorsement contract with
American Express.) "Dealing with all the things I have to deal
with kind of wore me out," he said, in explaining his shabby
play. "We were having business meetings all the time. I had
commercial shoots, appearances here and there. Doing all those
things, you just don't sleep enough, and sleep deprivation
interferes with your intensity. It showed in my play because I
wasn't able to keep up my intensity for 18 holes."

Running yourself ragged to meet endorsement obligations is a
self-inflicted malady, but many of Woods's problems are beyond
his control. He's golf's first rock star, and a madness, the
likes of which the game has never known, follows him to every
event. Fans turned out in tournament-record numbers to see him
play, turning Cog Hill into Clog Hill and forcing Woods into
almost comical arrangements to get around the grounds. Imagine a
presidential motorcade made up of E-Z-Go's, and you'll get the

The only other player to attract any interest from the gallery
during the week was 19-year Tour veteran Scott Simpson. Scott
Simpson? This had nothing to do with his middling game and
everything to do with his caddie, Chicago native Bill Murray,
whose goofy antics were on loan from the Pebble Beach National
Pro-Am. Otherwise, the rest of the field might as well have been
enrolled in a witness protection program.

"Sometimes it feels like you're invisible out there," said Mark
O'Meara, after taking the first-round lead with a six-under-par
66 while paired with Woods. O'Meara is perhaps the Tour's
foremost expert on Tigermania, because he is Woods's closest
friend in golf, not to mention a neighbor in Orlando, a fishing
companion and a frequent practice-round foil. On the eve of the
Western, Woods treated O'Meara to dinner and a movie, Men in
Black, and the twosome's night out reminded O'Meara of how alien
Woods's world is.

"Oh, you can't even put us in the same spectrum," said O'Meara,
perfectly cast as Tommy Lee Jones to Woods's Will Smith. A
40-year-old father of two, known for his affinity for cheap
hotels and boasting Rogaine as one of his endorsements, O'Meara
says he is almost never recognized off the course, and on those
rare occasions when he is, he is usually mistaken for Mark
McCumber, another balding veteran.

"When you get to the top of your profession," said O'Meara, who
has won two tournaments in each of the last three seasons,
"there are a lot of sacrifices that need to be made, and I'm not
so sure that sacrificing your privacy, your family life and some
other things are worth it. Like I told Tiger, one night I got
done at the course, and I went to The Olive Garden with my
newspaper and had a nice dinner by myself. No one knew who I
was. It was very quiet and great for the peace of mind. He
doesn't have that opportunity. People always want a piece of
him. I think he realizes how important his fans are to the game
and to his career. But I also think he realizes that he can't
live up to everybody's expectations."

After his victory Woods said, "I'm not going to be what some
other people in my position have become: a prisoner of their
fame. In a sense, I've been forced to grow up a little bit
faster. If I make a mistake, it's not only an internal problem,
but it's a global problem because everybody will know about it.
I also understand that there are consequences when I go out in
public. I'm going to get bugged, I'm going to get asked for
pictures and autographs, and people are going to want to say hi.
But they don't mean it in a bad way; they mean it in a good way.
They're trying to support me and say congratulations."

In fact, moments after Woods hit his approach to the 72nd hole,
several thousand fans ducked under the ropes and rushed the 18th
fairway to follow their hero home. It was a spontaneous, joyous
moment, plucked from the tradition of the British Open, where
spectators have long stampeded up the final fairway behind the
champion. Watching this scene play out from behind the green was
Woods's father, Earl. "That's just what I envision for him,"
Earl said contentedly, from within a gaggle of autograph
seekers. "Only a little bigger."

Earl is the guiding force in Tiger's career, along with Hughes
Norton of International Management Group, and even Earl said
later on Sunday, "We have put Tiger through too much of late. It
was a mistake that we all made. But what you have to remember is
this year has never been about winning tournaments or making
money; it has been only about getting Tiger adjusted to the PGA
Tour and the life of a touring pro. We're still learning."

Tiger blames accumulated fatigue for his mediocre play at last
month's U.S. Open, where he finished 19th. (He had skipped the
previous week's Kemper Open but had played in three consecutive
events before that.) Having absorbed that lesson, Woods took
this week off to tune up his game for the British Open, which
begins on July 17 at Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. Father
and son are fond of assigning letter grades to the state of
Tiger's game. This actually created some bad mojo for Tiger
among his peers when at the Nelson he (accurately) pointed out
he had won with his C-plus game. Looking ahead to the British
Open, Earl said last week, "If somebody goes out there with his
A game and Tiger shows up with his C game, then Tiger's going to
get beat. If Tiger shows up with his A game, I don't care what
game those other guys have. Tiger's going to win. It's that

As brash as that sounds, Tiger is quick to agree. "If I play my
normal game, I should be able to win," he said. "I think my game
is good enough that I can do that. I think the biggest thing is
to have the mind-set and the belief that you can win every
tournament going in. That's where a lot of guys have their
faults. I won this week with my mind. I didn't drive the ball
particularly well. My iron game was pretty good, and my putting
came in spurts. So it's nice to win a tournament with your mind
because that's what wins majors."

In his two previous British Open appearances, at St. Andrews in
1995 and at Royal Lytham and St. Annes last year, Woods finished
68th and 22nd, respectively. Playing a links course requires
low, running shots into the greens, which goes against Woods's
tendency to hit towering approaches. Neither Woods nor his
caddie, Mike (Fluff) Cowan, has ever seen Troon. "We'll figure
it out," Cowan harrumphed on Sunday night, while dutifully
signing his name for a multitude of fans and, upon request,
doing a credible job of forging his boss's signature.

Five-time British Open champion Tom Watson also pooh-poohs the
experience factor. "I went over there and won the first time not
really understanding what links golf is all about," said Watson,
who tied for seventh at the Western. "If you're playing well
enough, you can transcend the course and the conditions."

To be sure, Woods is playing well again--and he's looking
forward to some more time watching cartoons.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK BERMAN/CHICAGO TRIBUNE Heralded by his horde, Woods strode down 18 on Sunday with a three-shot lead. [Cheering crowd following Tiger Woods]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Tiger Woods playing golf]


Tiger Woods is on top of golf in more than just the World
Ranking. Here are 10 other categories in which he ranks No. 1.
(Statistics are based on PGA Tour performance.)

1997 TOUR EARNINGS $1,761,033
BIRDIES 4.42 per round
FASTEST TO $1M (CAREER) 9 events
FASTEST TO $2M (CAREER) 16 events

*Birdies made on greens hit in regulation