- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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In San Jose, Calif., this week, Kevin Woods will sit in his wheelchair a few feet from his television, watching his half-brother play the Masters. He has to. He can't see otherwise.
Can't stand much lately, either. Can barely use his left arm at all. He can feel his hands and feet going a little more numb every day. Kevin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009, and it's not getting better.
"I'd say 60 to 70 percent worse now," says Kevin's brother, Earl Woods Jr. "He's not going to be able to keep his house much longer."
All three men had the same father, Earl Woods, but Earl Jr. says they haven't heard from Tiger since they buried Earl's ashes in Kansas six years ago.
"I leave messages," Earl Jr. says. "I leave updates on Kevin, but for whatever reason I don't get a response. Kevin loves Tiger. A call from Tiger would really pump Kevin up. When he doesn't call, it just makes him feel worse."
Earl Jr., Kevin and sister Royce are the children of Earl Woods and Barbara Gary, of Kansas. They're 20, 18 and 17 years older than Tiger, who is the offspring of Earl's second marriage, to Kultida Punsawad. Though they lived in different houses, the four kids visited often and say they remained close until Tiger turned "about 15 or 16," Earl Jr. says. "But the more universal Tiger got, the less we heard from him."
Royce, who also lives in San Jose, stayed close with Tiger during his two years in college, fixing him meals and doing his laundry. In thanks, Tiger bought her a house. But since the funeral, none of them have been able to contact him.
"I would live in a shack," Royce told author Tom Callahan for his 2010 book "His Father's Son," "literally a shack, if I could have my relationship with my brother back."
When contacted regarding Kevin now, Royce would only say, "He has an illness and we're dealing with it the best we can."
The three have stayed almost entirely out of public view. None of the three have written a book, and they are rarely quoted.
"We haven't asked Tiger for a dime," says Earl Jr., who lives in Phoenix. "Not even tickets to a tournament. But Kevin's losing his home. He needs a caregiver and he can't have a caregiver and keep his home at the same time. And we can't do that, we don't have the means. He can't move into Royce's house because of the stairs. And he's got a dog.
"Nobody's asking for money here, but [a caregiver] really would be nice for Kevin. It would make Kevin comfortable. He wouldn't have to leave his house. But we'd at least like to be able to find out how Tiger is, to find out if he's OK, and to let him know if we're OK."
A spokesman for Tiger said that he's preparing for the Masters and wouldn't be returning my call to talk about it.
Tiger is not without a heart. His Tiger Woods Foundation has reached millions of young people around the world. But there has clearly been a falling out between Tiger and his half-siblings, and nobody seems to know what caused it. Tiger is close with Earl Jr.'s daughter, Cheyenne Woods, who attends Wake Forest and won the 2011 ACC women's golf championship.
"Tiger had Cheyenne down to Florida for three days to spend Thanksgiving on his boat," Earl Jr. says. "I asked her [afterward], 'Did he ask about us?' She said, 'No.'"
Royce is Kevin's caretaker now, taking him to his appointments and seeing to him. She also tended to Earl Sr. in his last years as he fought pancreatic cancer, even moving into his house in December 2005.
Since his diagnosis, the 52-year-old Kevin hasn't been able to work. MS is a genetic disease that often comes on later in life. One of Kevin's cousins also got it, in his mid-40s.
"We see him suffering," says Barbara Gary Woods, 78, who lives in Modesto, Calif. "He can hardly walk. Can't hardly hold things. I'm very disappointed in Tiger. Before he got all famous, they were in touch a lot."
The wall that's up between Tiger and Kevin burns Earl Jr.
"I'd like to [slap] Tiger, wake him up," he says. "I'd like to say, 'Don't come knocking on the door when you need a bone-marrow transplant.' To see this is the response we get? Maybe when you see the world like he does, you don't see what other people are going through. But, seriously? You've got problems with your knee? That's nothing compared to what Kevin is going through. Nothing."
I can't help wondering what things would be like if their dad were still alive.
"A lot different," insists Earl Jr., who looks a lot like his father. "My dad was a bonding agent. He encouraged us to keep in touch, protect each other, circle the wagons."
For Kevin's part, he tells his siblings that Tiger must be busy. He has not asked Tiger for anything and has not tried to contact him. He remains a Tiger fan and will have his face close to the TV as Tiger attempts to continue his comeback at Augusta.
Of course, some comebacks are harder than others.