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Review: Not enough of Tiger Woods in Steve Helling's 'Tiger: The Real Story'

Tiger is the latest book to attempt to analyze an intensely private superstar and the first since Woods' image was damaged, perhaps irreparably, by his marital infidelities.

Steve Helling, a People magazine reporter who drew on interviews and encounters he had with Woods dating back to 2002, doesn't set out to write an expose on his multiple scandals, an ambition that could be interpreted as admirable.

But the timing of the book's release — less than three months after the golfer delivered his public apology and less than six months after the scandal broke — seems an attempt to capitalize on the star's personal problems.

Tiger delivers neither in enhancing what we already know about the world's most famous athlete nor in uncovering significant new information that would push Woods' salacious story forward.

Rather, it reads more like an update of who Tiger was ("one of the world's most untouchable stars"), where he came from (some of Helling's best work explores the upbringing of Woods' father, Earl) and what he has become ("he has now proved that he is only human").

Readers seeking juicy tidbits will find a few. Helling reveals that Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, signed a prenuptial agreement before their 2004 wedding; Nordegren would receive $20 million if she remained married to Woods for 10 years. He reports that one Orlando club owner desperately called newspapers and magazines trying to interest them in stories of Woods' behavior with women at his establishment, to no avail.

The subtitle of Tiger is The Real Story, and Helling's account is no doubt a version of Woods' real story. But one of Helling's central points is that Woods spent a lifetime creating a nearly impenetrable personal life in which only the chosen got to truly know him. If nothing else, Tiger serves to prove how hard it is to break through and truly understand Woods — both before and after his scandal.

Tiger: The Real Story

By Steve Helling

Da Capo, 242 pages, $25

Review: Not enough of Tiger Woods in Steve Helling's 'Tiger: The Real Story' 05/29/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 29, 2010 5:30am]
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