Tiger's sordid tale reaches the afterlife

The setting could be heaven.

Or hell, depending on your politics, views on race and whether you regard Augusta National as a "cathedral."

Or it could be purgatory, where one might be purified of a lifelong belief that golfers should be white and caddies should be black.

The resident is one Clifford Roberts, chairman of the Masters Tournament from 1934 to 1976. On this day in the Great Beyond, Mr. Roberts receives a visitor, an emissary from the Here and Now dispatched to update his eminence on the state of the tournament he left behind when, in failing health, he took his own life in 1977.

The messenger is Andy Azalea, a young clubhouse attendant. Through a portal at the bottom of Rae's Creek, he has emerged in the presence of a man so imperious Arnold Palmer wrote of being "almost instantly scared to death of him."

"Sir," Andy begins hesitantly under Mr. Roberts' withering gaze.

"Well, what is it? What could be so dire that they'd send you all the way out here?" the Chairman asks.

Uncertain, and given the conditions, Andy decides to lay up.

"No, no, I have good news. We are expecting an extremely high-rated telecast this year," Andy stalls.


"Of course. And ESPN for the first and second rounds."

"ESPN?" the Chairman asks.

"Not important. The important thing is the numbers are going to be huge," Andy says enthusiastically as Mr. Roberts stares disdainfully at his curious offer of a high-five.

"Why the optimism?" Mr. Roberts presses. "Is there a new figure in the sport like my friend and founding partner Bobby Jones, a man as beloved for his moral uprightness as for his excellence?"

"That's not quite it, sir," Andy says with a sigh.

"Are there two wildly popular giants like Palmer and Nicklaus towering over the game?" Mr. Roberts wonders, swelling with nostalgia at those halcyon days.

"Mmm, not exactly," Andy says.

"Is there a stirring comeback this year, akin to when Hogan won in 1951?" the Chairman asks.

"Well, there is a comeback of sorts," Andy answers, trying to screw up his courage. "And there was a motor vehicle incident."

"Go on."

"One of the golfers, sir, was revealed to be a philanderer," Andy begins obliquely.

"Oh, good God, who cares? I myself was married three times," the Chairman mutters.

Mr. Roberts sticks a bony finger in Andy's concave chest.

"Stop wasting my time," the old man says, emphasizing each word with a jab of Andy's sternum. "If you have news that merits this interruption, out with it!"

Clutching the old man's hand and removing the finger from his chest, Andy says: "Eff it. Here's why your beloved Masters is going to have so many viewers this year: Joslyn James, Devon James and Holly Sampson."

"Oh, God no, did they admit women as members to Augusta National?" the old man stammers, clutching Andy's shoulder to keep from collapsing.

"No. Not yet anyway," Andy assures him.

"Oh, thank goodness," Mr. Roberts says, steadying himself and sipping a glass of water.

"No, Joslyn James, Devon James and Holly Sampson are the pornographic video performers with whom the greatest golfer of all time is alleged to have had extramarital sex."

The old man's spit take showers Andy.

"Jack Nicklaus had relations with wanton harlots?" Mr. Roberts asks, incredulous.

"No," Andy says, plucking the Chairman's pocket square to wipe his face. "Guy named Tiger Woods is now widely considered to be the greatest golfer of all time. He's a four-time Masters champion. Shot 18-under in '97, broke Jack's record that had stood for 32 years, won by 12 strokes."

"And this Tiger, he's ... he's ... sullied the green jacket?" Mr. Roberts searches.

"Well, none of the reports indicate that the jackets ever got anything on them," Andy. Says. "But the guy appears to have liked things a little freaky."

"Freaky?" Mr. Roberts trembles as Andy continues.

"I guess Tiger and Joslyn James maintained quite a lively correspondence. He was Mr. Clutch on the course but a bit of a 'choker' off it, if you get my drift," Andy says, laughing. "And golden showers, it turns out, doesn't just refer to the sun breaking through the magnolias as the last raindrops fall."

Andy leans in and whispers in the old man's ear, eliciting a mournful wail as the Chairman buries his face in his hands.

"Joslyn James will actually be taking off her clothes for money during the tournament in nearby Atlanta," Andy announces matter-of-factly.

Mr. Roberts shakes his head. His tradition unlike any other has been reduced to a tradition like so many others: tawdry, salacious, cheap.

"But the pornographic video performers are just the headliners. The guy had so many mistresses they wouldn't fit on a leaderboard," Andy says, now delighting in the old man's misery. "So we won't just have golf fans watching this year. We'll have every US Weekly subscriber, too."

Mr. Roberts straightens.

"How did all this come out?" he asks.

"Funny thing. His old lady, this smoking hot Swedish chick, apparently didn't take it too well when she learned he'd been cheating," Andy explains. "Most people think she hit him with a golf club. Opened his face with an open face. Led to a media circus that is going to give our ratings a major boost."

"Couldn't this Mr. Woods have the decency to just retire?" the Chairman asks. "Bobby Jones retired from competition when he was 28."

"No, we wouldn't want that. Nobody cares about golf when Tiger Woods isn't playing."

"What? That's preposterous. No sport, especially one played by the finest gentlemen in the world, could be dominated by one odious scoundrel," Mr. Roberts avers.

"Yeah. Weird, huh?" Andy says. "Well, that's where we're at. Some people think the guy may be the greatest athlete of all time. Nobody has ever talked about a golfer like that. Anyway, it's a perfect storm. America's obsession with sex colliding with its love of sports. At Augusta."

The old man sinks into his chair, weeping softly.

"Oh, and did I mention, he's black?" Andy adds perfunctorily.

With the Chairman twitching spasmodically, Andy figures the old man has had enough and decides against adding, "And so is the president."

Andy returns Mr. Roberts' pocket square and lets himself out. He needs to get back to Augusta. Tiger has arrived.

Let the voyeurism begin.