This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Early on in Tiger Woods' career, comparisons to Michael Jordan were thrown around. The best among the elite, men of color, yet unwilling to stand up for human rights causes, athletes long on vast wealth and corporate power, short on social conscience. Well, Tiger was but a cub back then. Watching the now 31 year-old Tiger yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, you flashed to the possibility that, should Barack Obama not become our country's first black president, Tiger Woods just may climb atop that pedestal one day.
At a press conference to announce a DC-area tournament to be played over the 4th of July weekend, Woods conducted himself in a bold, diplomatic, and political manner that would behoove George W. to study. Woods will not only play the new event, he'll host it, with his charity, The Tiger Woods Foundation, as primary beneficiary. Woods' version of No Child Left Behind is action, not rhetoric. His Learning Center in California hosts some 5,000 kids a year, who spend time with state-of-the art technology and experts who help inspire them to envision what they might want to pursue when they grow up. Tiger intends to build a similar Learning Center on the East Coast. When he strode into the press conference yesterday, he made a bee-line to the kids seated in the front row and shook all their hands. He didn't tousle their hair. He shook their hands. He said if his Learning Centers can have an impact here, "there's no reason we can't have an impact globally." The man sounds like Margaret Meade.
At the end, Tiger slowed his speech and said the reason he wanted this tournament to take place over the 4th of July was to honor our country's military. He spoke reverently of his father, who died this past year, and his service as a Green Beret. He announced that any active military personnel would be granted free admission to the tournament.
Tiger has all the sincere speak and charisma and timing instincts most politicians dream of. And, like any smart politician, he knows the power of his clout. He is now demanding from almost every tournament he enters that some, if not all, of the charity proceeds go to his Foundation. Let's be perfectly clear about one thing: Tiger Woods is no Michael Jordan. Or I should say, Michael Jordan is no Tiger Woods.
On the pure sport side of golf, with Tiger the only story that we seem to care about week to week, there was a wonderful unlikely victory on the PGA tour last weekend. Mark Wilson was like thousands of young golfers around the world. As a teenager, he hit the ball long and showed impressive talent. He honed his game and made it into the upper echelon, the pros. This past weekend's Honda Classic was his 111th PGA tournament. Wilson wasn't ranked even in the top 250 players on tour when he teed off in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He had no reason to enter this tournament with the mind-set of a winner. This is reality for the majority of professional golfers. Their goals are to make the cut and bank enough cash to keep their families from impatiently or compassionately convincing them to pat themselves on the back for making it this far, stash their sticks in the basement, and get a real job. That was Mark Wilson's world as of last week.
On Friday, his caddie made a blunder, one that probably would have slid by without notice by officials. But Wilson reported the gaff and it cost him two crucial strokes. Never mind, by Sunday he was in a playoff, and by Monday he had won his first ever PGA event. His check ca-chinged in at $990,000. That should keep his dream alive for a while.
One last golf note. Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, now 50, is making a comeback and I'm not going to nay-say her chances. If Martina could win a U.S. Open title at 50, I don't know why Nancy Lopez couldn't put together a few superior rounds of golf.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.