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Following Tiger’s path: Book review from Eagle County

Stephen Bedford
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Eagle County CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The 2008 golf season was the shortest of Tiger Woods’ career, but arguably his most memorable.

In a moment that transcends sports culture, Woods famously won the U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a stress fracture in his knee. He limped to perhaps the most impressive win of his storied career across 91 holes.

Golf analyst Bob Smiley was there in the gallery, alongside Woods not just for the endurance test at San Diego’s Torrey Pines, but for the other 513 competitive holes Woods played in his injury-shortened season.

Smiley chronicles his global sojourn with Woods in “Follow the Roar: Tailing Tiger for all 604 Holes of his Most Spectacular Season,” which serves not just as an excellent memoir of perhaps the most incredible golf victory in recent memory, but the man who supplied it.

Surprisingly, books about Woods have been few and far between and generally deal with swing theory and the technicalities of the sport. None have been as accessible as Smiley’s account, which blends funny fanaticism with a fond reverence for the sport and its fairways.

The title itself is a nod to the fandom that follows Woods each weekend as everyone knows exactly where he is on the course by the raucous roar that results with each drive, chip, putt, breath, and step.

The book also serves as a golf travelogue with Smiley relating all the nuances of the world’s top courses, from Augusta, Ga., to Dubai, the site of Woods’ first course design project. For many of us, those courses only exist in images, but Smiley’s words and ability to capture the culture of a golfing event adds another dimension to enjoying the game.

Although Smiley, at times, puts himself front-and-center, his analysis of Woods reinforces what many of us already know: Woods is a paragon of preparation, practice, and, in the case of the U.S. Open, perseverance.

Characterizations of Woods are generally limited to a few magazine pages, but to have a study of nearly 300 pages further instills a sense of awe and aura around the world’s best golfer.

Of course, Smiley intended his book to be much thicker to coincide with a full season, including two more majors and the Ryder Cup, for Woods. However, it’s almost a blessing for Smiley that Woods’ season ended when and how it did for our own selfish reasons.

We get a near hole-by-hole account of Woods’ riveting victory, with the icon wincing and limping for 91 holes and five days. At the time everyone knew something was wrong with Woods, but the severity would not be revealed until after he hoisted his 14th major championship trophy.

Some may argue a full season of tailing Woods may make for better, complete reading, but there’s no better excuse for a book than this particular season, and this event.

Stephen Bedford works at the Bookworm, and is a former sportswriter who covered dozens of PGA events. E-mail comments about this review to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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