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Tiger 2.0

"I am, bynature, a control freak," Tiger says with a smile.

The smile issheepish. It says, I get teased about this all the time.

Tiger sits on oneside of a conference table. I sit on the other. A Nike Golf executive, alongtime acquaintance of mine, stands by the door. She checks her watch everyminute or so to make sure I don't take more than my allotted 10 minutes.

Outside, on thetarmac, a Gulfstream 5 waits with its stairs lowered. It is parked not far froma chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, beyond which the L.A. trafficwhooshes by in hazy sunshine.

So when Tigerconfesses that he is a control freak, I have to fight the impulse to snortderisively. You think?

I've opened with afew seconds of small talk. I've told Tiger how much I enjoyed playing with himthe previous week in the pro-am of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. ("Cool,"he says, his expression giving no indication that he remembers.) We then getdown to business. Or rather, we talk about business. For 9 1/2 minutes.

When my time is up,I reach across the table and shake Tiger's hand. Nodding to my friend, I walkout of the room, down the hallway, out the front door of the terminal, acrossthe tarmac and up the stairs of the G5.

What? You thoughtthe plane was Tiger's?

THINK OF me as anauditor. My assignment: Tiger Woods 2006. I have the ledgers right here, andthe numbers are great. He won eight PGA Tour events last year, including theBritish Open and the PGA Championship. He topped the money list for the seventhtime and was voted the Tour's Player of the Year for the eighth time. He beatErnie Els in a playoff at the Dubai Desert Classic. He won his last six PGATour events and then mopped up the season with unofficial wins at the GrandSlam of Golf and his own Target World Challenge.

But there are someanomalies. A 22nd at the Players Championship, won by Stephen Ames.Thirty-three putts and no final-round kick in a third-place finish at theMasters, won by Phil Mickelson. A missed cut--Tiger's first in a major as aprofessional--at the U.S. Open, won by Geoff Ogilvy.

I explain these ina footnote: "Earl Woods dies of cancer, May 3."

It's not my job asauditor to coax a tear out of you with the details. You saw the lost look inTiger's eyes when he rejoined the Tour for the Open at Winged Foot. You sawTiger sobbing on the 18th green after his victory at Royal Liverpool. I'llsimply remind you that golf's greatest player, in the months since his father'sdeath, has taken direct control of his nonprofit, started a business, begunconstruction on a house, negotiated sponsorship of his own PGA Tour event andconceived an heir, whose birth is expected in July.

I submit the wordsof the Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa: We must embrace pain and burn it as fuelfor our journey.

When I first metTiger, he had nothing. No bankable assets, anyway. . . .

His bedroom wasfull of schoolbooks, posters and the usual detritus of Southern California teenlife. He had just gotten a puppy, but it wasn't one of those pricey pedigreepooches. It was a mutt. When a friend of mine played a friendly round with the14-year-old phenom, Tiger suggested that they play for a stick of ABC gum.

"What's ABCgum?" my friend asked.

The kid grinned."Already Been Chewed."

Tiger wasn't muchbetter off two years later, at the 1992 Los Angeles Open. His cap wasswooshless, his clothes were off the rack. In fact, he still answered to thename Eldrick. Reporters crowded around him, wanting to know what it was like tobe the youngest golfer to play in a PGA Tour event. With his proud father athis side, Tiger smiled bashfully and helped the reporters by spelling the namesof his teachers at Western High in Anaheim. He said he wanted to go to collegeand had already picked out a major: accounting.

I conducted my ownappraisal of Tiger near sunset on the eve of the tournament. We stood behindthe practice range at Riviera Country Club, making small talk, gettingacquainted. My eyes kept darting to his golf bag--a skinny carry model with nocorporate logos. "It won't be long," I told him, "before you have abag with your name on it."

Tiger flashed thebig grin. "That'd be cool."

FIFTEEN YEARS and65 pro tournament victories later, Tiger, now 31, has a foundation with hisname on it. And a learning center. And a street (Tiger Woods Way, Anaheim).Last year he quietly took the helm of the Tiger Woods Foundation, which, sinceits inception in 1996, has awarded more than $30 million in grants. He keeps aclose eye, as well, on the 14-acre Anaheim campus of the Tiger Woods LearningCenter, where in 2006 some 8,000 students, grades 4 through 12, enhanced theirpublic-school education by tackling subjects such as rocket science, softwaredesign and crime-scene investigation. In November he hung out a shingle forTiger Woods Design, a golf course architecture firm.

In keeping withhis changed circumstances, Tiger lives large. He circles the globe in Citationsand Gulfstreams supplied by a sponsor, NetJets. When he wants to calm his mind,he cruises the Caribbean on his 155-foot yacht, Privacy, which set him back acool $20 million. And while Tiger continues to reside with his wife, Elin, in arelatively humble Orlando-area mansion, he flies to Jupiter Island, Fla., fromtime to time to monitor developments at the 12-acre, $44.5 million waterfrontestate he bought last year. Workers will demolish the 13-year-old,23,000-square-foot main house, but Tiger and Elin can bunk at either of twoguesthouses or chill out on the yacht, tied up at their private dock, whilethey supervise construction of a domicile worthy of a neighborhood that Forbesdescribes as "the world's most expensive zip code." Last year GolfDigest estimated that Tiger had already earned roughly half a billion dollarsin endorsements and appearance fees on top of tournament winnings of $66million over nine seasons. The magazine projected that by the end of 2010 Tigerwill become the first billionaire athlete.

But they'reguessing, aren't they?

Tiger and I,talking in the conference room, dance around the net worth issue. (I think he'stoo polite to ask.) . . .

He does speakfrankly about his fading youth and the impending demands of fatherhood."I'm not going to always play golf," he says, leaning forward."Eventually the body gives out, and you can't play anymore. But there areother avenues you can take that will keep you competitive, keep you interestedand keep your mind working."

I nod, but Iwonder if he's putting me on. Tiger makes commercials for Buick, but he is notan "avenues" guy. Tiger is more your helmeted speed freak in a6,500-horsepower top-fuel dragster going 330 mph with header flames flying offthe manifold. Since he turned pro in 1996, Tiger has been racing due northtoward Jack Nicklaus's career record of 18 major-championship victories. If hewins next week at the Masters, Tiger will have three straight majors, 13overall and a chance, at the U.S. Open in June, to reprise his Tiger Slam of2000--01.

But here is Tiger,elbows on the table, working me like a cold-call broker. His business goal, hesays, is to get to "a place where my family can be financially secure."His course-design work will be "a partnership between me and the owner ofthe property; I'm trying to provide a product they'll be happy with." Hisbrilliantly successful endorsement deal with Nike, a multiyear contractrecently renewed for a reported $100 million plus, is about "providingproducts that consumers will enjoy."

He sums up:"We are in the providing business."

I wonder, for aninstant, if Tiger is trying to sell me a fixed-rate annuity.

"It alldepends on how much risk you want to take on," he continues, flattering mewith his use of the second person. "The things I do are very conservative.They're one-offs here and there with people who are very good at what theydo."

Tiger smiles."I guess you don't become billionaires by making bad decisions."

LATER, STRAPPEDinto a comfortable leather armchair on the G5, I stretch my legs and sip a cold7-Up. The brown expanse of the Mojave Desert, 44,000 feet below, resembles anunrolled bolt of tanned leather.

Tiger's talk aboutrisk and reward has left me vaguely discomfited. I think back to one of hismore memorable golf shots--the 213-yard six-iron from a fairway bunker that hesmacked over a guarding pond to 15 feet to beat Grant Waite on the last hole ofthe 2000 Canadian Open. If you asked me to review that shot in a PowerPointpresentation, I'd draw a graph with a flat reward line (because the $594,000first-prize check meant nothing to Tiger) and a risk line as steep as Everest(because his ball figured to make a splash before settling on the pond's murkybottom). But I'd be misstating the risk, because Tiger knew he could pull offthat shot.

That leads me toruminations on Nicklaus, who in his prime was famously strong yet paradoxicallycautious, an actuary in spikes. "To watch Nicklaus putt," I once wrote,"is to watch a diamond cutter at work--three minutes of scrutiny andanalysis followed by a single sure stroke resulting in somethingsparkling."

I share thesethoughts with Nike Golf president Bob Wood, who is sitting in the facingarmchair. Wood is an interesting man, an iconoclastic Californian who collectsvintage guitars and maintains an impressive wine cellar. He makes the pertinentobservation that Tiger, a fitness freak, embraces a diet of chicken breasts andbroccoli. "Only it's four chicken breasts and a bucket ofbroccoli."

Tiger's famousdiscipline, in other words, is not grounded in abstemiousness.

I am also puzzledby Tiger's mention of "billionaires"--plural--not making bad decisions.I assume he is close to Nike Sports founder and CEO Phil Knight, who ranks 69thon the Fortune money list with an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion. ButTiger also has the ear of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, vice presidentand prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai. SheikhMohammed, who owns the famed Godolphin racing stables and whose family has areported net worth of $10 billion, outbid Chinese interests last year for thehonor of building the first Tiger Woods--designed golf course. The course,dubbed Al Ruwaya (meaning "serenity"), will anchor an upscaledevelopment featuring 20 homes and 300 luxury villas called Tiger Woods--Dubai.It's just one element of a gargantuan enterprise called Dubailand. Tiger's cut,if you buy into the rumors, will be as much as $45 million.

It suddenly occursto me that Tiger, with his line about billionaires, might be talking abouthimself.

It's a lovely dayat the Emirates Club. . . .

Palms rustle,birds chirp, pile drivers hammer, tractors roar, construction cranes rattle,saws whine, Dumpsters clang, trucks groan, and traffic on Sheikh Zayed Roadlays down an ambient layer of white noise. It's February 2007, the week of theDubai Desert Classic, and Dubai is growing. What was vacant desert on my lastvisit is now a construction project to beggar the imagination. Dozens ofskyscrapers are springing up around the Emirates Club course. Twelve-lanefreeways coil in serpentine interchanges jammed with backhoes andbulldozers.

I'm seated at atable in a skybox overlooking the 18th green, chatting with adistinguished-looking gentleman dressed in the traditional white robe andgutrah of the desert. He tells me that Tiger and Sheikh Mohammed share certainqualities of character and mind. "They both have vision," he says."They are decisive. They enjoy the things they do." Both men, he adds,are uncompromising. "In his book Sheikh Mohammed writes, 'Second is aloser.'"

I ask the man inthe desert robe if Tiger the businessman is more sociable than Tiger thegolfer.

He nods and says,"I sit with him, we eat together, he's very friendly. Maybe a lot of peoplethink that he's...." The man hesitates. "It's not easy for Tiger.Everybody wants something--an autograph, a photograph, an interview, a businessdeal. His day starts when he comes out of his hotel room, and it doesn't enduntil he's back in his hotel room. Before people judge him, they need to putthemselves in his position."

The man in thedesert robe looks uncomfortable, so I change the subject to Al Ruwaya. Hissmile returns. The deal, he says, has been in the works for more than twoyears. He says the original site was Palm Jumeirah, a cluster of man-madeislands in the Arabian Gulf sculpted to look like a palm tree from the air. Hesays Sheikh Mohammed vetoed that plan, arguing that it would be redundant toput one landmark--the first Tiger Woods course--on another landmark, theislands. Better that it be built at Dubailand, which will make Disney Worldlook like a petting zoo.

I get nowhere,however, when I press for details about Tiger's contract with Tatweer, asubsidiary of Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai Holding. Will Tiger be paid up front, orwill he collect a royalty on properties in Tiger Woods--Dubai? What is Tiger'sdesign fee for Al Ruwaya? Does the contract include Tiger's multimillion-dollarappearance fee for playing in the Dubai Desert Classic?

"Money is nota big issue for Tiger," says the man in the desert robe. "Nor forus."

Tiger could use abanana. Or a deck of cards. Or a PlayStation2 running Tiger Woods PGA Tour2007. . . .

"I hatesitting still," he says from across the table. "I hate being stale.I've always got to be moving. I've always got to be challenged."

He says this whilesitting still, but I have no reason to doubt him. Tiger in a conference room isa cat in a cage. Tiger at a press conference is a schoolboy writing I will nottalk in class a hundred times on the blackboard.

"Tiger, you'reabout to become a father for the first time," says the reporter in thethird row. "Is that going to affect your preparation for themajors?"

"Tiger, you'rean expectant father," says the perky blonde, waving a foam-coveredmicrophone in his face. "Are you ready for diaper duty?"

"Tiger, theway you were raised by your father is the stuff of legend," says thelong-form writer with crumbs in his beard. "If your firstborn happens to bea son, will you raise him to be a champion or take more of a laissez-faireapproach to child rearing?"



If, as Tiger likesto say, "a day without adrenaline is a day wasted," then a day ofmeet-and-greet must be pure hell. But those who chart his business course saythat Tiger is as competitive wearing a tie as he is in a Sunday-red polo."He's a real pro in either environment," says Cindy Davis, domesticgeneral manager for Nike Golf. "He has endless energy. Everything to Tigeris an adventure."

That must be whyTiger is partial to stunts. A few years ago he smacked balls off the helipad ofDubai's 60-story Burj Al Arab Hotel. Another time he livened up a golf ballcommercial by shattering factory windows with precisely aimed five-ironshots.

It is a stunt, infact, that has drawn a bevy of us faux-auditor types to L.A.'s HawthorneAirport. On Nov. 28, 2006, the press release promises, Tiger Woods willchristen Nike's squarish Sumo2 driver by hitting balls down the runway.(Hoped-for headline: TIGER CRUSHES DRIVE 1,900 YARDS!) But when he finallysaunters out onto the pavement and starts launching rockets, there is a bit ofa letdown. A runway, it turns out, makes drives look less impressive thanusual, owing to the absence of a backdrop.

Tiger, though,takes pains not to disappoint. Speaking from a stage in a vacant hangar, hepraises Nike across the board--"Now we are a leader in the golfindustry"--but concedes that he probably won't use the Sumo2 incompetition. "I do hit it farther, but I launch it a little too high."(Nike recently recalled the driver after the U.S. Golf Association ruled thatsome of the clubs exceeded the organization's testing limits.) He points to thegolf division's dramatic growth since 1996, the year Nike, Acushnet andAmerican Express plucked him off the Stanford golf team with $12 million ofinducements. "Back when we started," he says, "I think we had a redshirt, a yellow shirt, a blue shirt and a black shirt." And gosh, whenTiger beat Davis Love III in a playoff at the '96 Las Vegas Invitational, Lovewas still using one of those clubs with a wood head and a steel shaft."We've come a long way," Tiger sums up, giving particular credit toKnight, his billionaire mentor. "It starts from the top. We have a leaderthat everybody's excited to work for."

Ninety minuteslater, as our gleaming white G5 banks over Catalina Island and turns tail onthe sun, the Nike executives toast each other and sink into their comfy chairs.It will be a short, happy flight to Scottsdale.

You get too closeto Tiger and he disappears. . . .

That is ironic,because getting close to Tiger is the reason SI brokered a deal with the PGA ofAmerica to put me on Tiger's pro-am team at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. It'sNovember 2006, and I've just started my Tiger audit. "You guys can talk,get reacquainted," says one of SI's top ad sales execs. "Maybe he'llgive you a few minutes on the side."

So here I am, Mr.12 Rounds a Year, standing with Tiger and our scramble partners in the fairwayof the par-5 2nd hole at the Poipu Bay Golf Club in Poipu Beach, Hawaii. Wehave a bit of a hanging lie, and I need to fly my five-wood about 225 yards toan elevated green, employing maybe 10 yards of fade against a right-to-leftcrosswind to fit my ball into an opening between a half dozen bunkers. I alsohave to consider the influence of Tiger's gallery, hundreds strong, clutchingcameras and pens, whom I imagine to be debating the identity of the beanpolesenior with the mainland pallor and green golf glove.

Tiger? He andcaddie Steve Williams are a few feet away, but if they were to don ponchos andfly into the Mexican hat dance, I wouldn't notice.

I misplace Tigeragain on the tee of the par-3 3rd, where he smacks a short iron pin-high whileI'm trying to choose between a hybrid four and a garden weasel. On another holea smiling Tiger walks by, saying, "Give me a 6." (I won't learn untilnightfall that he has just yanked his drive out-of-bounds.) Mostly, though,Tiger is merely a disembodied voice saying, "Good swing there," whenyou hit a nice shot.

Any Tour playercould have told me: You don't learn about Tiger when you play golf with him.You learn about yourself.

SO IT HAS to waituntil the following week, when we meet in that little room at the airport. How,I ask him, does he find time for his business pursuits? How does he keep theorbits of Mark Steinberg, his agent at IMG, and Hank Haney, his swing coach,from crossing?

"It's a matterof keeping a balance," Tiger says, his eyes straying to the clock on thewall. "Sometimes in the late evenings I may have to sit down and do somefiguring, make a bunch of phone calls, work different avenues. It's basicallynonstop. But it's mentally stimulating to work like that. The practice time,the tournaments, doing things with my friends and family, the business side all blends in."

I picture Tiger inhis home office at midnight--signing documents, firing off faxes, checking hisbank statements to make sure Steinberg hasn't bought Belize without hispermission.

He says,"There's no class to teach you balance. You have to learn on thefly."

A thunderstorminterrupts second-round play at the Dubai Desert Classic . . .so I drive myrented SUV into the desert for a look at Dubailand. There isn't much to see--arough expanse of coarse sand and gravel dotted with patches of dusty-greenscrub and the occasional stunted tree. But then, that's what the area aroundthe Emirates Golf Club looked like a decade ago. If Dubailand is builtaccording to plan, it will have 55 hotels and the infrastructure to accommodate200,000 visitors a day.

Tiger had been coythe other day when a European reporter asked if he planned to spend part of hisweek in the desert, stepping off yardages and planting little red flags.("I'll probably go out to the site and take a look," Tiger said.) Hisnascent design team, however, is huddling with the Tatweer staff at theEmirates Club. Tiger's man on the ground is his childhood friend and highschool teammate Bryon Bell, who caddied for Tiger on occasion before going towork at the Tiger Woods Foundation.

There isunderstandable curiosity about Tiger's foray into course design. Typically, achampion golfer either partners with an established golf architect--ArnoldPalmer with Ed Seay, for example, or Ben Crenshaw with Bill Coore--or hires astaff of practiced landscape engineers and architects à la Jack Nicklaus, whosedesign company has produced 310 courses in 30 countries. Tiger would seem to beleaning toward the latter model (he took advantage of Nicklaus's generous offerto let Bell visit his North Palm Beach offices to study the golf courseoperation), but he turns vague when asked who will actually read thetopographical maps and produce the construction drawings.

In L.A., Tiger hadassured me, "I will not be hiring some guy to design a golf course. I'll behands on and involved in it."

He was moreforthcoming about his design philosophy. "My tastes are toward the old andtraditional. I'm a big fan of the Aussie-built courses in Melbourne, thesand-belt courses. I'm also a tremendous fan of some of the courses in ourNortheast." Tiger didn't name those courses, but I mentally ticked off someclassic layouts that he probably likes: The Country Club, Shinnecock Hills,Merion, Baltusrol, Winged Foot.

"I'm not onewho thoroughly enjoys playing point B to point C to point D golf," hecontinued. "The courses I like are the ones where you have the option toplay different shots. I enjoy working the ball on the ground and usingdifferent avenues."

"Like RoyalLiverpool?" I asked, naming the English course on which Tiger won the 2006British Open using a 19th-century arsenal of low, scooting tee shots (playedalmost exclusively with irons and fairway metals) and ground-huggingapproaches.

He smiled at thememory. "Liverpool this year and St. Andrews in 2000 are the only timesI've seen the fairways faster than the greens. You hit a putt from the fairway,it was running one speed. It got to the green, the putt slowed down." Hissmile broadened. "That's not like most golf courses, but that's what I liketo see. It fits my eye."

Now, walking onthe Arabian desert under dark, roiling clouds, I pause to squint, to fit myeyes to the scrubby slopes and narrow washes of Tiger's blank canvas, trying tosee a golf course.

Pretty soon, I seeit.

Tiger says the twoyears he spent at Stanford are starting to pay off. . . .

"I wasmajoring in econ, but the econ I was learning was your supply-and-demand curve,monetary policy. It was mostly math," he says. "I was never going to bean economic analyst or anything like that, but some of it is starting to becomeapplicable now, as I start to get into the business."

I want to dazzleTiger with some of my own financial acumen--how I bought Garmin at 17.50 andApple at 21 before the split--but I'm afraid he might have heard that I drive ahail-damaged '94 Volvo. Instead I ask if he has ever sought business advicefrom Nicklaus, Palmer or Gary Player, the original Big Three of ancillaryincome. "I have not talked to them," he says.

I can tell,though, that he knows what I know--that the Big Three, while wealthy and widelyadmired in business circles, have found commerce to be a cruder and meaner gamethan golf. Nicklaus suffered losses to his bottom line and reputation in thelate 1990s when his publicly traded Golden Bear Golf Inc. tanked because ofaccounting irregularities at a course-construction subsidiary. Palmer gotdragged into ugly litigation in the late '80s when his partner in a chain ofArnold Palmer car dealerships was brought down on fraud charges, and again in'90 when homeowners near Florida's ritzy Isleworth community (where Tiger wouldlater move) won a $6.6 million judgment against Palmer and his developmentpartners over lakefront pollution and flooding. Player, too, has had setbacks,most notably with Gary Player, an e-commerce company that lostmillions in the dotcom fever of the late '90s. And while all three haveventured into the golf equipment business, none of their signature club lineshas ever captured more than a tiny share of the U.S. market.

"It alldepends on how much risk you want to take on," Tiger says. "Arnold hasdibble-dabbled in a bunch of different things, but he's never put himself atcomplete risk, where the other two basically have. You can reap the rewards bydoing that. Or you can get shelled." He shrugs. "Obviously, I don't gointo much risk."

The next day, aswe leave Scottsdale and continue our flight over the American heartland in theNike corporate jet, I ask Bob Wood for an appraisal of Tiger Woods,businessman.

"Tiger is asponge," he says. "He has an incredible memory, and he's had years tosoak up information from people who work for large companies." Wood pauses,as if waiting for a presentation graphic. "Whatever he gets into, he getsinto all the way. Right now, it's skiing. He's a nut for skiing, and every timeI talk to him he knows more about skiing. That's how he is." He pausesagain, letting me savor the mental image of Tiger in goggles pursuing his wife,an accomplished skier, down a black diamond.

"He's acomplete control freak. He always wants to determine the outcome."

I nod.

"He's verycomfortable in his own skin. He doesn't have a posse. He doesn't walk aroundwith a bunch of yes-men."

I nod.

"He's smartenough to know that every strength is a weakness."

That one issufficiently Zen to stop my nodding. "Is he a new Tiger?" I ask."Is he playing more than one game?"

"Well, he'srunning the foundation, now that his father is gone. That's a pretty dauntingpart-time gig for a 31-year-old." Wood shakes his head. "But no, he'sstill focused on winning majors."

Of course he is.But Tiger doesn't sleep a lot . . .and if he can use those otherwise wastedhours before dawn to, say, plot a white-knight takeover of a PGA Tourevent....

Or perhaps Ishould call it a coup, inasmuch as the AT&T National, scheduled to debut inor near Washington, D.C., around the Fourth of July, will be played withineavesdropping range of the White House. "If you ever have to choose betweenannouncing a golf tournament sponsorship or testifying before Congress,"AT&T chairman Ed Whitacre says at a March 7 press conference with Tiger andPGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, "my advice to you is to take the golftournament." The new event, hosted by Tiger and run by and benefiting theTiger Woods Foundation, replaces the International in Castle Rock, Colo., whichfolded in February after 21 years.

Here's where anauditor has to get creative. Looking at first quarter 2007, I see that Tiger'sseven-event PGA Tour winning streak ended on Feb. 23, when he lost to NickO'Hern at the Accenture Match Play. But there's no compensating line item forTiger's 10-and-8 reaming of International founder Jack Vickers in theWho-Gets-to-Host-a-Tour-Event Classic. The 81-year-old Vickers, a one-time oiltycoon, is the guy who complained that Tiger's failure to play in histournament since 1999 had halved television ratings and made it impossible toland a title sponsor. "If something isn't done," Vickers tells me overa bowl of asparagus soup at Castle Pines Golf Club in February, "you're notgoing to have a Tour. Right now, it's a one-man show."

Yes, I think, andas an astute Wall Street analyst once shouted at Tiger, "You daman!"

In any event, I'mchecking commodity prices on Bloomberg TV the other day when the network runsvideo of Tiger, in coat and tie, paying courtesy calls to House speaker NancyPelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Then Tiger is behind a nest ofmicrophones, explaining how he and his dad had always dreamed of running theirown Tour event. And because Earl had been a Vietnam vet and a career soldier,Tiger's thrilled to be hosting a tournament celebrating America's birthdaywhile honoring America's warriors who, by the way, will be offered freeadmission to the tournament, as will children under 12. At this point theremust have been a technical foul-up, because there is no video of fireworksbursting over the Washington Monument. But Finchem and Whitacre are practicallyfloating off the dais, and I'm reaching for my checkbook to contribute to theTiger Woods for President exploratory committee.

Bloomberg moveson, but I picture Tiger stepping back from the podium and delivering one of hissignature fist pumps.

I THUMB a messageto Vickers on my Blackberry, quoting Andy Grove, the cofounder and formerchairman of Intel.

Success breedscomplacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.

Maybe I shouldsend it to Finchem instead.

JASON GORE likesthe view from 45,000 feet. The feel of it too. He's a big man, so the paddedarmrests and generous legroom provide a level of luxury he could only dreamabout two years ago, when he was driving his wife and infant son to Nationwidetour stops in a car packed with practically everything the family owned. Onenight, at a motel in Asheville, N.C., someone broke into the car and tookeverything. But, hey, this is America. A week later Gore's mug was as familiaras Suze Orman's--thanks to his play at the U.S. Open. Three months later Gorehad three straight Nationwide wins, a promotion to the PGA Tour and a stunningvictory at the 84 Lumber Classic. So now he's a winner, like Tiger, and cancross his legs as he soars above Ohio in the G5.

"We're alllittle kids at heart," says Gore. I think of Tiger at 16, excited about apuppy and anxious to join Pops and his mom for a chain-store pizza.

An hour later theplane touches down in Teterboro, N.J., and we pile into a shuttle for the rideto lower Manhattan and the World Financial Center. It's the last stop on theSumo2 tour, and Gore's job is to answer reporters' questions and then smackballs in one of two cages set up in an atrium bright with Christmas lights andpotted poinsettias. He's a natural at this, and hundreds of brokers, executivesand office workers stop to watch on their way out, some of them stepping intothe cages to hit a few balls. I watch for a while and then stroll over to theglass wall to take in the big view of New York Harbor and the Statue ofLiberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses....

I wonder whereTiger is and what he's doing.

SO HERE'S my finalaccounting: Tiger Woods, in fiscal 2006, earned $11,941,827 in prize money androughly $90 million from appearance fees, endorsements, corporate outings,speaking engagements, books, licensing fees, instructional videos and TigerWoods--branded products ranging from wine to grass seed. His income from stocksand other investments is harder to gauge; based on the results of my ownclosely managed portfolio, I estimate that he made another $600, minimum.

Working, then,from an estimated income of $101,942,427--and basing my calculations on a52-week year and a federally mandated five-day work week of eight hours aday--I value my 10 minutes of Tiger's undivided attention at $8,168.46.

Past performance,of course, does not guarantee future results.

Get the latest from SI Golf Plus and Golf magazine, including instruction,travel news and up-to-the-minute tour results.

"We are in the providing business," Tiger says.I wonder if he is TRYING TO SELL ME a fixed annuity.

I picture Tiger checking his bank statements to makesure his agent hasn't BOUGHT BELIZE without his permission.

"Tiger's very COMFORTABLE IN HIS OWN SKIN. Hedoesn't walk around with a bunch of yes-men."


Photograph by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images




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