AP Selects Tiger as Sports Story of the Year

Though it might not be the type of attention the golf world seeks, the saga of Tiger Woods nevertheless has been voted as the sports story of 2010 by The Associated Press.

Woods's ironclad image quickly disintegrated after he crashed his SUV into a tree outside his home in Windemere, Fla., on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009. Soon emerging from that single-car accident was a barrage of salacious stories that kept many a scribe and pundit busy for months.

Woods, the wealthiest athlete in the world, soon became the focus of tales of extramarital affairs, notions that led to his heretofore staunch corporate sponsors withdrawing their millions, and his wife, Elin, filing for divorce, which was finalized in August.

It didn't help that when Woods finally emerged from a self-imposed exile in February, he - or, as was rumored, his agent and hired "spin doctors" - held a closely controlled "news conference" that didn't allow questions by reporters. Indeed, the Golf Writers Association of American boycotted the event, claiming it wouldn't abide by the no-questions-asked "ground rules" imposed prior to the proceedings.

The Woods' camp initially restricted access to the session to a mere three reporters, later expanding that number to six after outcries by the media, all of which went to no avail, at least in the eyes of the GWAA, whose 950 members were stunned by the allegations against golf's preeminent figure and wanted to know the real story.

"I cannot stress how strongly our board felt that this should be open to all media and also for the opportunity to question Woods," responded Vartan Kupelian, president of the group, in a statement announcing the boycott. "The position, simply put, is all or none. This is a major story of international scope. To limit the ability of journalists to attend, listen, see and question Woods goes against the grain of everything we believe."

Another backlash from Woods's secret life was seen on the golf course; 2010 was the first year he did not win a tournament since joining the PGA Tour in 1996. Thanks to performances such as in April's Quail Hollow Championship, when Woods shot his second-worst round as a professional, a 7-over 79 in the second round to miss the 36-hole cut - only the sixth time in his career he's failed to play on the weekend, Tiger also lost his long-held grip as the top-ranked player in the world, ceding that title to Lee Westwood in late October.

Before the accident and subsequent fallout from his private life, which soon unraveled in a very public manner, Woods was hailed as the greatest golfer in history. It would be only a matter of time before he would net four more major titles to reach the exalted all-time record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.

Now, because of a very down year and a retooled swing, the question is: Will the 34-year-old ever match or surpass the Golden Bear's mark?

One member of Tiger Team, caddie Steve Williams, believes Woods will redeem himself in 2011. "Last week (in the Chevron World Challenge, where Woods lost to Graeme McDowell on the first playoff hole after blowing a four-stroke lead heading into the final round) was the first time he's played three good rounds in succession this year," Williams was quoted as saying on New Zealand news website http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/golf/4463614/Tiger-Woods-a-swing-or-two-away-Williams.

"It's been a difficult year and hard to focus on the task, but it's all started to come together so I'm excited for 2011."

Williams added: "He's working on a new swing, and it takes time to be able to put that swing into play over an extended period. It's not easy to take it from the range to the course. He's just got more confidence with it.

"Tiger wants to beat Jack's [Nicklaus] record, so that's what makes you work hard and get up early and train in the gym. You only get four tournaments a year to get those wins, so it's an easy job to get motivated in."

The other sports stories of the year by the AP included, in order: the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl; free agent frenzy (LeBron James, et al) in the NBA; the World Cup in South Africa; the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series; increasing concussions in the NFL; Jimmie Johnson's continued reign in NASCAR; Brett Favre's odyssey; UConn's continued dominance in women's collegiate basketball; and John Wooden's death.