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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Has Tiger Found His Brooke Shields?: A lot has been made about Tiger Woods's recent struggles, especially in major tournaments. Tiger has just one win and two top-ten finishes this season and has not won a major since the 2002 US Open. Now, perhaps the media is just being ridiculous. I mean, Woods won five tournaments last year, which is a good year for any player on Tour. But is Woods just any player? In the past seven years, no one has dominated a sport like Tiger Woods has dominated golf. Some argue that no golfer has ever been as dominant as Woods was from 1999-2002.

Perhaps Tiger's recent "slump" (if you can call it that) is due to Woods returning to mortal status, or other players hitting their strides, or injuries, or bad karma. Yes, people may argue that, but I have a different theory. Call it the Brooke Shields theory.

In 1994, Andre Agassi returned from surgery to win the US Open, which was another in a long string of tournament wins. Soon after, though, he met actress Brooke Shields. While Agassi had a few successes on the court, including winning the 1996 Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, his career went into a nosedive. While his relationship with Shields continued to grow -- she was on the sidelines of his every match and the two were married -- he did not win any tournaments and fell out of the world rankings. Then, his relationship with Shields began to decline, culminating in a divorced in 1999. Boom. Agassi is re-born, moving back into the Top 10 and winning five tournaments. He won both the French and US Opens in 1999 and the Australian Open the following year. Since that time, he has one two other Grand Slams and became one of only four men to win all four Grand Slam singles titles in a career.

Some will read this and think I am off my rocker. Maybe. But there is a clear connection between the beginning of the Agassi-Shields courtship and Agassi's career going down and then an upswing as things get rocky, leading to a divorce.

Now, Tiger. Much ado was made last year of his new love, Elin Nordegren. Unlike his previous girlfriend, Nordegren follows Tiger on tour and can be seen cheering for him behind the ropes. In addition, Tiger has admitted that he now has other priorities in life, spending less time on the greens and at the driving range. Perhaps as a result, other players have caught up to him, lessening his dominance in the sport.

As anyone who has begun a new relationship knows, they take time and attention. During the "honeymoon" period, you often want to spend as much time with a person as you can and other activities seem to take on less importance. Perhaps this is what happened to Agassi, and perhaps that is what is happening to Tiger now. You cannot blame them -- after all, there is more to life than just sports. But you also have to wonder -- how long can an ultra-competitor like Tiger continue to barely make the cut at Augusta before he starts focusing more on golf?


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