|The golfing gods must be crazy|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
The first image you see at TigerWoodsisGod.com is Tiger winning the 1997 Masters with a white-bearded God peering over the leaderboard and the words, "Thy Golfer, Thy Son" flashing on the screen while "Ode to Joy" plays. Surrounding the photo are links to "Evidence of Tiger's Divinity," a guide to joining The First Church of Tiger Woods and a page of Tiger's "Ten Commandments" (with an accompanying picture of Tiger dressed Moses-like and holding two stone tablets).
Although he did inspire it.
"I started the church after Earl had made his famous statement that Tiger was the chosen one and that he would be bigger than Buddha and Gandhi and be able to impact nations," webmeister John Ziegler said. "Being an agnostic, I thought maybe Earl is on to something here because he's been right about everything else he's predicted for Tiger."
Ziegler describes himself as a TV commentator and columnist who began the Church of Tiger several years ago when he was host of a radio talkshow in Nashville, Tenn. He began the website two years ago.
When I first saw the site, I didn't know whether to be amused or appalled, whether it was a superb and elaborate joke or evidence of a disturbed mind. When I asked Ziegler whether he and his church are for real, he replied, "Not being able to tell is part of the deal."
"Deciding whether the First Church of Tiger is real or not is really in the eye of the beholder," he said. "That was kind of the goal when I started it.... Half come to the website and get it, and half don't. Half the responses I get say I'm doomed to hell and need to find the true savior, and that this is blasphemous. And some say, 'Hey, I was at tournament with Tiger and saw him feed the entire galley with nothing but a Power Bar.'
"If you want to take it as a joke, it's a joke."
It is -- Ziegler launched the site on April Fool's Day, 2000 -- but not everyone sees the humor. JesusJournal.com called the site blasphemy and called upon its users to pray for Ziegler to be restored to faith. A lapsed Catholic, Ziegler says he is unconcerned that he might burn in hell -- or worse, spend all eternity in purgatory waiting for his heaven page to load.
Obviously, the evidence of Tiger's divinity Ziegler offers is about as dubious as the Warren Report or an advertisement claiming a club will magically add 50 yards to your drive. One such piece of "evidence" is that after winning the Buick Open, Tiger told reporters, "To be under par as bad as I was hitting it today, was kind of a miracle!"
Another piece of evidence is Earl Woods' claim that he and Tiger possess mental telepathy.
"He said that at the 1999 PGA Championship, he helped Tiger win by going through the TV set and communicating with him on his putt to trust his stroke and Tiger said he heard him," Ziegler said. "But we're uncertain whether this ability works just on over the air broadcasts or on cable or pay-per-view."
Ziegler also says that when Tiger was asked about the website at The Masters one year, he denied having seen it -- "But the interesting thing is he made no attempt to deny his divinity, which we took as a good sign. We took that as almost as good a sign as his lawyers never getting in touch with us."
With items such as the Sixth Commandment -- "Thou shall not scream, 'You da' man!' after any Tiger shot, since to call him a man would be demeaning" -- you can easily waste as much time on TigerWoodsisGod.com as on jumptheshark.com. You certainly will spend more time there than on Phil-Mickelson.com.
But is a website purporting a golfer's divinity blasphemous? If it isn't, it certainly lacks perspective, no matter how many majors Tiger has won. After all, what about Michael Jordan?
Or as one user wisely points out on the testimonial page, "Jesus didn't have access to titanium clubs."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.