Despite the layoff, Tiger was the same old self

Jan 31, 2006 3:59 AM

I watched, along with 38,746,241 others — my count, not the rating services — the mustachioed and goateed Tiger Woods return to battle Sunday at La Jolla’s tough and tricky Torrey Pines South Course.

Even after 24 days without picking up a club, he was the same indomitable, indefatigable and inscrutable Tiger. He won, of course.

I particularly appreciate Tiger’s picture-perfect drives, because I live on the ninth fairway of a golf course. Happily, Tiger does not play there, and none of the rich retirees and coupon clippers who do can drive far enough to reach my windows. I knew that beforehand, and had a fiendish plan in moving there.

The drives that do reach me, bouncing and rolling, are harmless.

I smiled frequently at the Titleist golf ball commercials Sunday. Would you like 10 shoeboxes of only slightly scuffed Titleist balls? How about 20? I have four grandsons, and my plan is to pay for their college educations by standing near the first tee of my home course selling used golf balls originally paid for by members playing the course.

I am not one of them. I do not play golf. But if you visit, say hello to the old guy in a black raincoat, looking like an elder Jack Abramoff, peddling used balls. It’s me.

I began wondering, as Tiger charged from seventh on Saturday to win on Sunday, what guys like him do in their spare time.

By sheer chance, I found out.

They buy houses.

Tiger lives in a house in Orlando, Florida.

At least he lives there when he is not at his house in California.

Or the one in Sweden.

Or perhaps his house in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Or on his 155-foot yacht.

While on vacation and his R and R rest this time, Tiger bought another house.

Well, not exactly just a house.

A hunk of land on Jupiter Island, just north of Palm Beach, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intercoastal waterway, in one of the most exclusive enclaves in America. People like Celine Dion and Greg Norman and Alan Jackson hang out there between gigs.

I have spent considerable time around the breed of intelligent, well-educated, carefully groomed, bored young women who become realtors. They have nothing better to do, or more accurately nothing more profitable to do, than raking in commissions while driving around in their BMWs and Jaguars selling houses. These ladies are invariably lovely, and without exception have the courageous inner personalities of pit bulls and Rottweilers. They are fearless, and have the blood instincts of sharks.

So it was easy to conjure up the scene on Jupiter Island.

A surprised thirty-something blonde realtor — they usually are blonde — looks up from her desk to see Tiger Woods standing there.

"Hi, can I help you?" she asks, admiring his broad shoulders and his beautiful blonde wife Elin, standing with him.

"Yeah," Tiger says, "I’m interested in that big place -- that stretch of land with the 13,207 square-foot house, the one with 8 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms and 2 docks, with the guest house with another 6 bedrooms and 7 baths."

"As a matter of fact, that’s my listing," the agent says quickly. "It’s lovely, cozy and comfortable and near the water."

"I know," Tiger tells her. "My place in Orlando has water, but on a lot of lakes. I miss the ocean, coming from California as I do, and I like the idea of oceanfront property."

So the three of them drive over to look at the property, The realtor almost misses the final turn, trying to figure quickly what the commission would be on $45 million.

As it turns out, she didn’t get that. Tiger and Elin and Tiger’s dad bought the property, but got it for a song, picking up the 10 acres and two houses for $38 million from his special Tiger Woods endorsement and testimonial commercial account.

Well, that’s not true. It was bought by three companies, all with the same Orlando address, all branches of the ETW Corporation. Tiger and his father are the principals of two of them.

You might have noticed on Sunday that Tiger is growing older. He’s 30 now. Time to spread his wings.