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Posted: August 7, 2011 12:00 a.m.

The return of Tiger

As of this writing Tiger Woods - who has been more like Bear Woods in recent months - has recovered from his injuries and coming out of hibernation to return to competitive golf.

Woods is one of those individuals in the world of sports and entertainment who has achieved icon status and his fame goes beyond his skill as a golfer. Many people forget that sports, whatever the sport, is also entertainment and whether you love or hate Tiger he was great theatre and that's what he needs to try and be again.

When word of his personal life peccadillos emerged that started him on his meltdown many people seemed stunned, although I do not know why. Woods is a control master and his image factory created a fictional world where every aspect of his life was measured, ordered and covered with plastic. Those who bought into that image were hopelessly naive.

Then, along with the personal problems, came a spate of injuries that took him out of the game for an extended period and perhaps made him realize for the first time he can't control everything.

Now, in an attempt to not only regain his prowess as a golfer but to bring the fans back to his side, Tiger is changing his stripes. He has changed his coach, changed his swing and changed his caddie.

But for him to really be viewed as a different person maybe Tiger needs to try and bring the ordinary fan back into his fold.

To get in touch with the common fan Tiger should dump Nike and get a beer sponsorship. Most golfers enjoy a cold one after a round so Tiger should wear a Shlitz cap. Tiger and Shlitz are both trying to make a comeback so they are a perfect match. The slogan would be, "The Swing May Be Flat but the Shlitz is not."

Since he fired Steve Williams, his longtime friend and caddie, the first thing he should do is find an appropriate replacement. He might want to consider going high profile and hire someone everyone knows, like Rush Limbaugh. The problem would be Limbaugh would not shut up long enough for Tiger to make a swing and he would never make a putt because Limbaugh would read everything going to the right.

But since he is now single Tiger should call Hugh Hefner and asked to be sponsored by Playboy. Arrangements could be made for the Playmate of the Month to carry his bag. No doubt the relationship would be entertaining.

"I think I'll hit a seven-iron here," says Tiger.

"Which one is that?" asks Ms. April during the Masters.

"The one with the seven on it."

He could change caddies each month and while they may not help him win tournaments it would be great theatre and TV ratings would soar. At the very least the Playmate Caddy would cut down on the banal commentary of golf announcers because they would be stepping on their tongues.

Tiger is on his third swing coach but now is the time to really change the swing. Instead of hiring another dull guy with a new theory on the golf swing, his new swing coach should be Willie Mays. Tiger could learn to hit the ball with his cap is flying off. The only problem might be that Mays hit to all fields, wich is the problem Tiger is already having.

Tiger should look to NASCAR as an example of how to identify with the fans. He could be the first professional golfer to be sponsored by Valvoline or Tide but he would want to avoid any company involved with cell phones.

If Tiger Woods wants to come anywhere near the status he once held in the world of sports and business he will have to do more than just win.

The public saw the true Tiger Woods and what emerged was not a very pretty or pleasant picture. He apologized for his swinish behavior and human nature is such we believe in giving people a second chance.

So Tiger is back in some fashion. As for golf, some say he will return and dominate again while others say those days are gone.

But perhaps most important will be to see what kind of man returns. Tiger Woods was never what the image makers made him out to be but he has a chance for a fresh start and that may be enough for him to become what he should be.

Freelance writer Ric Latarski can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.

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