An excerpt of my latest column for Poynter.org.
At one time, Robert Lusetich didn’t cover golf for FoxSports.com. He covered Tiger Woods.
Lusetich was assigned to all of his tournaments in 2009. Part of it was due to a book he was writing on Woods, but it also was the result of the insatiable appetite for all things Tiger. After winning his 14th major at the U.S. Open in 2008, the countdown was on for Woods’ inevitable march to Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major victories.
So if Woods was teeing it up in competition in 2009, Lusetich was there to write about it.
“Tiger moves the needle, not just in golf, but in the world of sports,” said Lusetich of the unique assignment.
The all-Tiger-all-the-time coverage hardly has dulled through the years. The nature of the beat, though, has changed for Lusetich and his fellow golf reporters.
Once again, Woods is the main focus at this week’s Masters. However, the story now has morphed from him making a run at history to chronicling what could be the end of his run.
Woods’ one-time brilliance almost seems like a distant memory in light of his stunning downturn. Forget about winning the Masters. With his short game mysteriously gone, it will be an upset if he makes the cut.
“Has there ever been a story like this in all of sports?” Lusetich said.
Indeed, the Woods spotlight could be so intense, if a player shots a 59 in the first or second round, he might not get mentioned until the fourth graph.
ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski knows Rory McIlroy is going for his third straight major this week, and fifth before the age of 26. He is well aware that there are numerous stories to tell about other players.
Wojciechowski, though, still intends to empty his notebook on the player now ranked, incredibly, 111 in the world. He isn’t going to apologize to any critics who contend there’s too much Woods coverage.
“If you believe every athlete’s career is a three-act play, then this is Woods’ third act,” Wojciechowski said. “Just because he isn’t winning majors doesn’t make Woods any less compelling a story. I’d argue it makes it more compelling. You can legitimately ask the question: Is Tigers Woods done? Reasonable minds can disagree on the answer, but the question itself is telling and fascinating.”