Duke University Professor Orin Starn casts his anthropological eye on three topics most academics wouldn’t touch: celebrity scandal, golf and race.
Perhaps the best golfer ever, Tiger Woods, rocketed to the top of a once whites-only sport. Endorsements made him a global brand and the world’s richest athlete. The child of a multiracial marriage, Woods and his blond, blue-eyed wife, Elin Nordegren, seemed to represent a new post-racial America. Then, in late 2009, Woods became embroiled in a sex scandal that made headlines worldwide. In this concise yet far-reaching analysis dissecting the social, economic and political strands of “Tigergate,” Starn’s book — “The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal” (Duke University Press/John Hope Franklin Center Book, $19.99) — gets at the heart of American culture in the 21st century.
His examination brings to light a society that celebrated Tiger Woods as “post-racial” during his reign as the most powerful man in sports quickly discarded that characterization often in ugly, vulgar terms — in the aftermath of his tawdry 2010 sex scandal. In doing so, an America obsessed with scandal and fueled by anonymity demonstrated the power of predictable and divisive stereotypes about race, fame and celebrity.
“What’s interesting to me about the Tiger Woods scandal is that it really says so much about 21st century America,” explained Starn. “It says a lot about the place of golf in our culture. It says a lot about the oversized place of celebrity scandal, and it also says a lot about race. Tiger had become, in his years of great glory and success, this mythic icon of a post-racial America.
He was married to a blonde-haired Swedish woman, his mother is Thai, his father is African American, he has these two mixed-race kids and the family has two dogs. So they seem to embody this quite beautiful vision of diversity and multiculturalism and an America where people from all different backgrounds get along. So Tiger goes from a post-racial icon to the cover of Vanity Fair published after the scandal broke where he’s hyper-masculine, hip-hop-posed-shirtless, Tupac-like-rapper-air. The sex scandal activated these still very present, and pretty horrifying, stereotypes about Black masculinity and sexuality and what Blackness means to American culture.”
Starn’s book is the result of two years of research on Woods, a mixed-race athlete widely considered among the top golfers in history. But its themes stretch more broadly, delving into golf’s historical reluctance to embrace diversity and America’s current anxiety and obsession with sex, race and celebrity. “When it was convenient, America embraced Tiger Woods as a post-racial ideal of the society we’d like to be,” said Starn, chair of Duke cultural anthropology department. “But when the scandal hit, Tiger was quickly demoted to ‘just another Black guy’ status.”
Through interviews, observation and a thorough mining of Internet commentary, Starn illustrates that many opinions of Woods and the sexual dalliances that led to his divorce and temporary career implosion fall along predictable racial lines. Some Blacks were outraged that all of Woods’ alleged mistresses were white, Starn notes. Meanwhile, racists on the Internet quickly and gleefully mocked Woods’ fall from grace, deriding him in vulgar terms.
This abrupt shift was expressed most vividly on Internet websites and message boards, illustrating how far America still has to go before it gets beyond race, Starn says: “Race has become a lose-lose game. There’s a fixed set of views, positions and roles around race that get articulated over and over again. We’re on this racial treadmill that doesn’t get us anywhere new.”
For more than 20 years, Starn has focused his research on social movements and indigenous politics, particularly in Latin America and native North America. In tackling the Woods scandal, Starn immersed himself in the seedy side of the World Wide Web — the message boards, chat rooms and news comment sections where people say what they really think. The results were eye-opening, says Starn, who maintains a blog about golf, sports and society at http://golfpolitics.blogspot.com/
“There’s a whole set of things you can’t say without losing your job, being put on administrative leave or having to make an apology,” he says. “So you might think racism and racial stereotyping doesn’t exist in America. But Internet chat rooms are where you can find it, the underbelly of American race relations.”
Okay, I admit it. I’m tired of Tiger Woods.
I’m tired of his ongoing string of poor finishes; and his weak excuses for not playing better since the “scandal.” I’m also tired of the media, at this week’s Memorial Tournament, for example, interviewing a guy who has become, now, just another average pro golfer, at this stage of his career. Finally, I’m still, quite frankly, tired of the whole “Cablinasian” thing.
There was a time, of course, when Eldrick Tont Woods was not only the greatest golfer in the world, he was also the planet’s most popular and highest-paid athlete.
He was, in addition, extraordinarily rare in a sport that had been totally populated and dominated by men of European descent. When non-golfers thought of the sport, at all, up came images of rich, white men, of racially exclusive golf courses, and of Black folks being primarily engaged in the game as caddies — bag carriers, humble, on-the-course, servants and facilitators. There was, also, on the part of many Black folks, the lingering belief that some of those Black caddies could have beat the pants off many club members, if allowed to compete against them.
Some people could come up with the name of a few “break-through” or “pioneer” black PGA golfers — guys such as Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder, the first Black player in the Masters, in 1975. They might also remember Althea Gibson, the tennis great, and first African American to compete as part of the Ladies’ Professional Golfer’s Association (LPGA) tour, and Renee Powell.
The United Golf Association (UGA) was established in 1925 as a place for Black golfers to play in professional tournaments, because the PGA bylaws, at the time, still h said the organization was “for members of the caucasian race.” The UGA is where Sifford, Elder and other mid-twentieth century Black luminaries got their start.
As all of this was unfolding, along came the Civil Rights-inspired influx of Black managers into corporate America. In retrospect, there weren’t very many of them, but a significant percentage of these aspiring Black executives believed that it was critically important to their careers to learn to play the game of golf. The myth was that golf, the recently Caucasian-only sport, was not only a good and officially condoned form of exercise, it was also the place where “big business deals” were actually “cut.”
It was within that context that the world awaited the long-anticipated emergence of Tiger Woods, the young Black phenom, the man who would prove that Black folks could, indeed, be competitive and win major golf tournaments.
Right on schedule, Woods starred on the varsity golf team at prestigious Stanford University, and turned pro, in 1996. One year later, at the age of 21, he won his first Masters Tournament.
Remember, that made Tiger the first “Black” Masters winner, at Augusta National Golf Club, a course that had long refused to accept Black members. The Masters Tournament was also the event wherein all of the caddies, prior to 1982, were Black.
Although he was arguably about five shades darker than Woods, Vijay Singh, from Fiji, who won the Masters Tournament in the Year 2000, has never been referred to as a “Black” winner. But hey, that’s a whole, other, complicated story.
Black corporate golf enthusiasts, ever-alert to new ways to enhance their rate of assimilation to “big business insider,” were absolutely ecstatic to have Tiger as a new role model, one who validated their very presence on the golf course.
In addition, millions of non-corporate, non-golf playing Black folks, across the board, were also mesmerized by the young man’s talent and charismatic approach to the game. They began to follow the PGA in ways they previously never had, driving up PGA TV viewership and sponsor interest.
Both Black and white folks loved the fact that Tiger continued to rack up tournament victories and multi-million dollar commercial endorsements. In a Gallup Poll, conducted in the year 2000, he was ranked as the world’s most popular athlete, with an 88 percent favorability rating.
But African Americans took the whole “Tiger thing” a step further. They “adopted” him as a racial standard-bearer, named their babies after him, and sang his praises in barbershops, hair salons and churches. Even before Barack Obama, Tiger Woods seemed to be the “one” we had been waiting for.
The only problem with all of that, of course, is that Tiger Woods wanted no part of the whole “Black race” scenario.
In fact, in a 1997 interview with Oprah Winfrey, he famously said that it bothered him to be referred to as an African American. He then went on to describe himself as a “Cablinasian” — a combination of Caucasian, Black, Native American and Asian.
Technically, the guy was probably correct, the country’s “one drop rule, “notwithstanding. Tiger’s father, Earl Woods, claimed a mixed, African-American, Chinese and Native American heritage. Perhaps to Mr. Woods’ great disappointment, in America, all of that simply made him a Black man.
He should have explained that to his son.
Tiger’s mother, Kutilda, claimed to be a combination of Thai, Chinese and Dutch ancestry.
According to one source, with parents so comprised, Tiger, himself, was “officially” one-half Asian, one-eighth Native American, one-eighth Dutch and just one-fourth African-American.
Black Americans, who recognized that their pure African blood lines, in most cases, had long been mixed in a “Tiger” kind of way, know that this society treats them as Black people, nevertheless. They expected Tiger to understand that, and to conduct himself, with dignity, accordingly.
When he persisted in his arms-length relationship with the Black community — other than with people such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley — Black support for the man began to chill noticeably.
We still watched him play, and still rooted for him as a person of color in the predominantly white world of professional golf, but, at the same time, we were almost pleased when Tiger’s fellow-golfer, Fuzzy Zoeller, made the “fried chicken” and “collard greens” insults, to him, after he won the Masters. We thought, somehow, it would wake him up and bring him “home.”
When he got caught up in the family-destroying scandal, Black folks didn’t feel all that sorry for Tiger, especially after noting that not one of his 13 reported mistresses was a Black woman, or even a “woman of color.” Even when he was doing the wrong thing, it seemed, Tiger couldn’t resist demonstrating his lack of preference for Black people.
After the scandal, of course, Tiger’s once-brilliant career went into a tailspin. After 2009, in fact, he went 923 consecutive days without a PGA victory. He’s won just one PGA tournament since the scandal, and his annual golf-related earnings, which had averaged $9.5 million per year, from 2005 to 2009, dropped to $1.3 million in 2010, and $660,348, in 2011.
Tiger’s PGA ranking, which had stood at first or second, for most years throughout his career, dropped to 68th in 2010, and to 128th, in 2011. His favorability ratings fell from 85 percent in 2005, to 33 percent, in 2009. In addition, 19 percent of people polled said they would have a “less favorable” opinion of companies that used him to endorse their products.
As a result, Tiger has lost the majority of his commercial endorsements. To make matters worse, as part of his divorce settlement with his wife, he was ordered to pay her an estimated $100 million.
Finally, because he so adamantly denied being Black, African Americans that I run into believe what has happened to Tiger is simply “poetic justice.”
Usually, they offer words to this effect: “I guess he realizes he’s Black now.”
At this point, however, does anyone really care?
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
It’s been an interesting year in the world of sports. Over the last 12 months, there have been a number of big stories with great expectations. These stories received local and national attention.
There wasn’t a month that went by that didn’t provide the sports fan with some kind of major story. In 2011, the fans will say goodbye to a number of sports legends. The fans will remember the disappointments, trials and tribulations and the great accomplishments. There were many over the course of the year.
It’s not easy to select a list of the top 10 sports stories for the year. That’s a huge task. Nevertheless, this group of stories will touch on some of the major events that occurred this year.
The Eagles and the Phillies — The Eagles were supposed to have one of the best teams in the NFL. Owner Jeffrey Lurie and president Joe Banner went out and spent a lot of money on some of top free agents in the NFL such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown and Vince Young.
Actually, Young labeled the Eagles the “Dream Team.” Well, the team with so much promise really struggled throughout the season. They were expected to win at least 11 games. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
The Phillies had the best pitching staff in baseball with Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. They also acquired outfielder Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros. The Phillies won a historic 102 games and finished with the best team in baseball. But they were very disappointing in the playoffs. They received an early exit from the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round. Of course, the Cardinals beat everybody. They won the World Series.
Walt Hazzard — Hazzard, former Overbrook High, UCLA and NBA standout, passed away. Hazzard was 69 years old. Hazzard played with Wali Jones and Ralph Heyward at Overbrook High. They had an amazing 89-3 record during his scholastic career. In 1959, he led Overbrook to the city championship. In 1964, he guided UCLA to its first NCAA championship. He played for the legendary coach John Wooden.
NFL Lockout — It was quite a bit of labor strife in the NFL. The lockout prevented teams from having offseason conditioning programs. It took several months of negotiations to finally come up with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The lockout hurt a lot of teams who signed several free agents like the Eagles. Teams found out that they needed the OTAs (offseason training sessions) to form some kind of chemistry with their new players.
NBA Lockout — It really looked like there wasn’t going to be a NBA season. The NBA lockout lasted 149 days before the owners and the players association came to a contractual agreement. The five-month lockout saw the two sides battled over basketball related income, contract lengths, salary cap and other labor issues. The lockout didn’t conclude until December. It forced the NBA to hold a lockout-shortened season, which includes a 66-game schedule instead of the regular season 82-game schedule.
Green Bay Packers — The Green Bay Packers are coming off an impressive Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It looks like the Packers could be headed for a repeat. So far, Green Bay has lost just one game this season. They have quarterback Aaron Rodgers who could win MVP honors.
The Philadelphia 76ers — The Sixers got new owners in 2011. Joshua Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, along with a group of investors purchased the team from Comcast–Spectacor. According to Forbes, the Sixers were valued at $330 million.
The Sixers haven’t won a NBA championship since 1983. But the Sixers appear to be one of the up and coming teams in the league right now.
Bernard Hopkins — Hopkins got his light-heavyweight championship back from the WBC after his bout with Chad Dawson was declared a technical draw. In his fight with Dawson, Hopkins was lifted and tossed to the canvas in the second round dislocating his left shoulder. Dawson was originally awarded the title from Hopkins with a second-round TKO. But the WBC looked at the video of the fight and determined that the action was intentional in regards to lifting his body followed by Dawson pushing Hopkins which made him fall near the ropes. Hopkins injury was taken into consideration as well.
Tiger Woods — It’s been a long time since Tiger Woods has won a golf tournament. Woods has really struggled over the last two years. He put it all together winning the Chevron World Classic at Sherwood Country Club in southern California. It looks like Woods may have found his stroke as he heads into 2012.
Florida A&M drum major — The Florida A&M Marching 100 band has been known for its brilliant halftime performances at HBCU football games. FAMU has taken a big hit publicly. According to Associated Press, the Florida A&M University’s Board of Trustees recently voted to publicly reprimand the school’s president rather than place him on leave following the death of a band member in what detectives say was an incident related to hazing.
High School basketball — Four Philadelphia area high school basketball teams won PIAA state championships this season. Chester High won the Class AAAA title. Neumann–Goretti captured the Class AAA crown. Imhotep Charter snared the Class AA championship. Math, Civics and Sciences won the Class A title.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
There’s a lot being said this week about last Friday’s sudden resignation of PHA Administrative Receiver / Executive Director Michael Kelly. The circumstances surrounding his departure are as old as time itself. A married man has a consensual affair, and trouble inevitably follows.
When I spoke to Kelly on Friday afternoon, he insisted he was stepping down for “family reasons” — one of the oldest partial truths in the political playbook. He admitted, though, that there was more to the story, and that a vital piece of information would probably be revealed after the weekend.
About 10 minutes after I got off the phone with Kelly, Tribune Managing Editor Irv Randolph came into my office, closed the door, and sat down. I told him exactly what Kelly had told me.
“What does your nose tell you?” he asked, newsman’s code for any public statement that doesn’t pass the smell test. We media types, as you may imagine, are lied to quite often. Often enough that most news people have highly sensitive, built-in lie detectors — and mine, like Irv’s, was sending off alarm bells.
But you don’t need to be a walking lie detector to see through this one. Here’s a big, fat clue: any time any politician or political appointee holds a press conference to say he’s stepping down because of “family reasons” — it’s because his wife is about to perform elective surgery on him with a pair of kitchen shears. It’s not exactly a lie, but it’s nowhere close to the whole truth.
Sure, the dutiful wife might be standing right there beside him at the press conference, her face frozen in a tight, joyless smile; but inside she’s planning his torturously long, exceedingly painful road back to redemption — if indeed he ever makes it that far.
In my previous dealings with Kelly, he struck me as a highly intelligent, competent manager with great ideas and the enthusiasm to get things done. That’s still my opinion of the man. He took an agency that some said was broken beyond repair, and he set about repairing it. I haven’t heard anyone this week say Kelly was anything less than a top-flight administrator — albeit one with obvious personal failings.
From Bill Clinton to Tiger Woods to John Edwards, and going clear back to King David, the list of mighty men brought low is endless — and almost always for the same reason.
So what is it? What accounts for the adult male’s seeming inability to resist temptation? Poor impulse control? Some irresistible animal instinct?
If I knew the answer to that, I’d make a fortune on the talk show circuit.
I just know that Michael Kelly isn’t the first, and won’t be the last.
And that’s a shame, because it immediately puts him in the same loathsome category as his sleazy, serial groping predecessor, which is a bit unfair. Carl Greene was a man of wild appetites and outrageous behavior. Kelly simply fell into the oldest trick bag in history: thinking you’ll get away with it, and everything will be fine as long as the wife doesn’t find out.
And while we’re on that subject, here’s another inconvenient truth for you: The wife always finds out. Maybe not right away, but she always finds out. Always. (Wives have built-in lie detectors too.)
In the end, nobody wins.
Talented managers are forced to resign, leaving the taxpayers with who-knows-who as a replacement; families are unnecessarily humiliated; and leadership is forced to scramble to find someone willing and able to take on a difficult task while their every move is monitored for public consumption.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not absolving Michael Kelly, or Tiger Woods, or Bill Clinton of blame or personal responsibility here. They had choices, and knew the consequences, but chose poorly anyway. That’s life.
I’m just saying that the entire sordid spectacle of shame and stupidity played simply for public titillation has gotten old. As long as there have been marriages, there have been people who step out on their spouses, the vast majority of whom never make the news.
It’s one thing if the offender has stained their oath of office, or misused taxpayer funds, or has in some other way violated the public trust. But if the only aggrieved party is the person’s family, I’d just as soon leave they leave the private life at home.
Which is where, in my opinion, Kelly and all the other men like him should face their judgment: at home, at the hands of their wives. And let the punishment fit the crime.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tiger Woods keeps saying his game is close.
Standing on the 18th green at Pebble Beach, he never looked so far away.
With the red sleeves from his shirt sticking out from a black vest, Woods could only watch Sunday as Phil Mickelson made one more birdie putt for an 8-under 64, the final touch of a six-shot comeback to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The white scoreboard behind the 18th green was telling.
The first stunner was seeing Mickelson go from a six-shot deficit to a two-shot lead in just six holes. Then he poured it on with a magnificent shot into 2 feet for birdie on the 13th and an aggressive play on the 14th for another one.
Equally shocking was Woods.
He three-putted for par and a 75, a whopping 11 shots worse than Mickelson. Only four other players had a higher score than Woods in the final round, none of whom started the day within range of the leader.
Woods was two shots out of the lead when he walked off the sixth green and then bogeyed the next three holes.
The two biggest names in golf played together in the second-to-last group, both feeling as though they were close to breaking through, both needed a dramatic charge at Pebble Beach.
That player turned out to be Mickelson.
In a big way.
“To put it together this week, and especially the final round, just feels terrific,” Mickelson said. “And it gives me a lot of confidence, but also inspires me. Because I believe now that what I’m doing is correct, and that I’m able to play some of my best golf.”
Woods attributed this mess to only one club in his bag — the putter.
The putting carried him to a 67 at Pebble Beach in the third round, giving him a chance to win for the first time since Sept. 13, 2009 on the PGA Tour. It let him down Sunday, when he missed five putts from under 5 feet.
“I could not get comfortable where I could see my lines,” Woods said. “I couldn’t get the putter to swing. I just could not get comfortable. It was frustrating, because I was looking to somehow getting off to 2- or 3-under par through six. Phil got off to that start. I had a chance to pick it up through the middle part of the round. Instead, it went the other way.”
Lost in all this was Charlie Wi, who started the final round with a three-shot lead. Wi four-putted for double bogey on the opening hole, dropped another shot on the fifth, then three-putted from 15 feet for bogey on the sixth. Only a late rally gave him a 72 to finish two shots behind Mickelson for his fifth career runner-up finish.
The win gave Mickelson his 40th career victory — his goal is to get to 50, and this will help. He also became the third straight winner on the PGA Tour to start the final round at least six shots behind.
And to do it with Woods as a mere bystander?
“I just feel very inspired when I play with him,” said Mickelson, who has posted the better score the past five times he has played alongside Woods in the final round.
“I love playing with him, and he brings out some of my best golf. I hope that he continues to play better and better, and I hope that he and I have a chance to play together more in the final rounds.”
Mickelson took more satisfaction over having his wife, still recovering from breast cancer, come up for the weekend and even give him a pep talk when Mickelson was going nowhere in the second round.
“I was moping. It was terrible,” Mickelson said. “And she said, ‘Come on, now, cheer up. Let’s go make some birdies.’ And she was so positive, and it just changed my attitude.”
He became a four-time winner at Pebble Beach, where his grandfather used to caddie.
It’s more about the momentum he hopes this will give him going into the rest of the year. Mickelson had not won since the Houston Open last year and had fallen out of the top 10 in the world. He started this season believing his game was about to turn the corner, only to miss the cut at Torrey Pines and finish out of the top 25 in two other tournaments.
“It’s one of the more emotional victories for me than I’ve had, and the reason is I’ve had some doubt these last couple of weeks, given the scores I’ve shot,” Mickelson said. “Having these great practice sessions, I started to wonder if I’m going to be able to bring it to the golf course. So this gives me a lot of confidence and erases the doubt.”
Despite the six-shot deficit, Mickelson drew optimism from recent history — not only his record playing alongside Woods, but the nature of Pebble Beach. He was tied for the 54-hole lead in 2001 when Davis Love erased a seven-shot deficit in seven holes, shot 63 and won.
As for the confidence he gets playing with Woods?
“I just seem more focused,” Mickelson said. “I know that his level of play is so much greater when he’s playing his best that it just forces me to focus on my game more intently, and hit more precise shots.”
That’s what he did.
After picking up birdies on Nos. 2 and 4, Mickelson got a bonus with an 8-iron that plopped down 2 feet from the cup for a tap-in birdie at the par-3 fifth. His approach to the par-5 sixth hopped onto the green and then came another break. He knew the putt broke to the right and had a line picked out.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo — Woods’ partner — went first from a similar line.
“I saw that it broke more right than I thought, so I adjusted by a couple of inches,” Mickelson said. The ball curled in from the right side of the cup, giving Mickelson the outright lead.
Woods had to make a 6-footer for a two-putt birdie — his first — but that didn’t last long. He three-putted the seventh from 18 feet, missed a 5-foot par putt on the eighth badly to the right, failed to save par from the bunker on the ninth.
He headed home with another close call. Two weeks ago in his 2012 debut, Woods was tied for the 54-hole lead with Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi, couldn’t break par and tied for third. He knew he would need a round of 66 at Pebble Beach to have a chance and wound up watching his old nemesis get the job done.
Woods sounds insulted when asked about not winning on tour. He considers the Chevron World Challenge against an 18-man field last December just as significant. Still, he is raising more doubts than answering questions. — (AP)
ORLANDO, Fla. — Sports has a new power couple: Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn confirmed they're dating.
Two months after rumors began circulating in Europe, Woods and Vonn posted separate items on their Facebook pages Monday afternoon to announce their relationship. The posts include photos of golf's 14-time major winner and the Olympic and World Cup downhill ski champion.
"This season has been great so far and I'm happy with my wins at Torrey and Doral," Woods said. "Something nice that's happened off the course was meeting Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey and I have been friends for some time, but over the last few months we have become very close and are now dating."
Woods made a stop in Austria — where Vonn was competing in the Alpine skiing world championships — in January on his way to Abu Dhabi to start his season. Two weeks ago, after he won the Cadillac Championship at Doral for his second win this year, The Daily Mail published photos that showed a woman, who appeared to be Vonn, in a golf cart at the marina where Woods' yacht "Privacy" was docked.
"I guess it wasn't a well-kept secret but yes, I am dating Tiger Woods," Vonn said on her Facebook page. "Our relationship evolved from a friendship into something more over these past few months and it has made me very happy."
Both said they wanted to keep everything else private.
Woods posted four photos with Vonn on his page, while Vonn's had one of those photos.
Vonn is recovering from right knee surgery — something familiar to Woods — after a Feb. 5 crash that ended her season. Her divorce from Thomas Vonn after more than four years became official in January. They separated in 2011. Vonn, whose maiden name is Kildow, decided to keep Vonn as her last name after the divorce.
The announcement was one day after the World Cup season ended. Vonn hopes to return in time for the Olympics next year in Sochi.
Woods' past relationships are far more sensational.
His marriage of five years to Elin Nordegren of Sweden collapsed in 2010 after shocking revelations of multiple extramarital affairs. His infidelity was exposed the night after Thanksgiving in 2009 when he ran his car into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his Florida home.
Woods spent the summer of 2010 working out details of a divorce, which became official in August that year. They share custody of their two children.
The 37-year-old Woods rarely discusses any aspect of his private life, and it was surprising that he acknowledged a relationship with Vonn, much less post studio photos of him, in a short-sleeve Nike golf shirt, and Vonn, in a light blue warm-up jacket. But this would preclude paparazzi making big money when they are photographed together for the first time.
He is playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week at Bay Hill, where he is a seven-time winner and the defending champion. Woods can return to No. 1 in the world for the first time since October 2010 if he wins.
After that, Woods is not expected to play until the Masters on April 11-14.
The 28-year-old Vonn is the premier ski racer of her generation, an owner of four World Cup overall titles, along with gold and bronze medals from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics that earned her AP Female Athlete of the Year honors. She is the only skier — male or female — to win one of the annual AP awards that date back to 1931.
Dominant against other top female skiers, Vonn petitioned the International Ski Federation to let her compete against men in a downhill race, but the request was rejected last year. Her 59 career World Cup race victories is three shy of the record, and she recently claimed a sixth consecutive World Cup downhill title.
Vonn's season was cut short when she shredded two knee ligaments and broke a bone in her lower right leg in a crash during this year's world championships. She hopes to return at the start of the next World Cup season in November and, if healthy, she would be one of the top athletes at the Sochi Olympics next year.
During a conference call with reporters last month to discuss her recovery from the injury, Vonn declined to talk about rumors of a relationship with Woods.
Woods has gone through four surgeries on his left knee, including reconstruction after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 despite shredded ligaments and two stress fractures of his tibia.
Along with his 14 majors, Woods has won 17 times in the World Golf Championships (no one else has won more than three), and after Bay Hill he will have the record for most weeks (789) in the top 10 of the world ranking dating to 1986. -- (AP)
ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods is back to No. 1 in the world with a game that looks as good as ever.
Woods tied a PGA Tour record Monday by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time, and this one had some extra significance. It returned him to the top of the world ranking for the first time since the final week of October 2010, the longest spell of his career.
Woods never let anyone closer than two shots in the final round at Bay Hill that was delayed one day by storms. With a conservative bogey he could afford on the last hole, he closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over Justin Rose.
Next up is the Masters, where Woods will try to end his five-year drought in the majors.
He fell as low as No. 58 in the world as he coped with a crisis in his personal life and injuries to his left leg. One week after he announced he was dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, Woods celebrated his third win of the season, and his sixth going back to Bay Hill a year ago.
"It's a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments," Woods said.
Vonn tweeted moments after his win, "Number 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Like so many other wins, this one was never really close.
Rickie Fowler pulled to within two shots with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, but after he and Woods made bogey on the 15th, Fowler went at the flag on the par-5 16th and came up a few yards short and into the water. Fowler put another ball into the water and made triple bogey.
Woods played it safe on the 18th, and nearly holed a 75-foot par putt that even drew a big smile from the tournament host. He walked off the green waving his putter over his head to acknowledge the fans who had seen this act before.
Woods tied the tour record of eight wins in a single tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times from 1938 to 1965 at two golf courses. Woods tied his record for most wins at a single golf course, having also won eight times at Torrey Pines, including a U.S. Open.
"I don't really see anybody touching it for a long time," Palmer said as Woods was making his way up the 18th fairway. "I had the opportunity to win a tournament five times, and I knew how difficult that was."
Rose, who played the first two rounds with Woods, closed with a 70 to finish alone in second.
Fowler had to settle for a 73 and a tie for third with Mark Wilson (71), Keegan Bradley (71) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (72).
Already with three wins this year, Woods is closing in on another Snead record — 82 career wins. Woods won for the 77th time on tour.
Rory McIlroy had been No. 1 since he won the PGA Championship last August. He is playing this week at the Houston Open. -- (AP)