Monday, July 24, 2006

Tiger Woods To Enter 2007 Tour De France

Sunday in Paris, Floyd Landis realized the ultimate achievement in cycling as he won the Tour de France. On the heels of Lance Armstrong’s seven straight victories, it was the eighth championship in a row for a U.S. rider. Next year, another American hopes to experience victory on the Champs-ElysĂ©es. Tiger Woods has announced his intention to enter the 2007 Tour de France.

Woods had his own moment of glory Sunday, winning his third British Open and 11th major championship overall. It was an emotional occasion, representing his first major title since the passing of his father Earl. However, in one respect the victory was like all ten of his previous triumphs. Tiger had led by one stroke as play began on Sunday, and he is now 11-0 when leading after three rounds at a major. Tournament officials at Royal Liverpool Golf Club considered canceling the final round, knowing that the outcome was no longer in doubt. However, out of custom and respect for the fans, they proceeded with play on Sunday.

The Tour de France is similar to a Tiger-led major, as the concluding Sunday is merely considered a formality. A 59-second advantage, achieved by Landis in the penultimate stage on Saturday, was considered insurmountable in Sunday’s short and flat final stage. Therefore, Woods feels that he would be at home in France, assuming that he can grab the lead before the final stage. All he has to do is change sports, survive an indescribably grueling competition through thousands of miles of country roads and mountains, and outrace the best cyclists in the world. The Jack Nicklaus comparisons would then cease, as Nicklaus never finished better than third at the Tour de France.

If Tiger does lead the Tour on the final Sunday, he will have to adapt his attire. A treasured tradition of the event is that the leader wears the yellow jersey. However, Woods famously wears red on Sunday during golf tournaments. He has been so successful maintaining the lead while wearing red, other Tigers are following suit. As long as they sit atop the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers plan to wear red shirts during Sunday games. Woods is willing to forgo his beloved red in favor of yellow, but he does plan to ask Tour officials for one accommodation. He would like to wear a green jacket over the yellow jersey.

The magic of the yellow jersey apparently does not extend to Tiger’s current sport. Sergio Garcia, his final round partner at the British Open, wore a yellow shirt and yellow pants on Sunday. Unlike Landis, Garcia faltered in yellow, shooting a 73 and finishing seven shots behind. Sergio refused to blame his attire, claiming that his struggles resulted from being Sergio Garcia in the final round of a major. On the bright side, his all-yellow ensemble has made him the favorite to star as Big Bird in the next tour of Sesame Street Live.

As an American rider, Woods is also required to endure a debilitating health issue before he can win the Tour. Greg LeMond, the first U.S. victor, captured two of his three championships after being severely injured in a hunting accident. Armstrong famously overcame cancer before his historic run. Landis is afflicted with a hip ailment, osteonecrosis, and plans to undergo hip replacement surgery. In turn, Tiger has already planned how to get injured, answering the dreams of golf rivals Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and Ernie Els in the process. Woods has invited the trio to send him to the emergency room by striking him repeatedly with their favorite clubs.

One final challenge will remain for Tiger before he joins next year’s Tour de France. It is common knowledge that no competitive cyclist can be taken seriously unless he has rampant doping rumors swirling around him. Therefore, Woods has hired a publicist who specializes in making steroid allegations against athletes. After the charges circulate to the point that he is frequently labeled as a cheater, Tiger will be prepared for the rigors of the Tour.

In the end, Woods expects to hoist a champagne glass next July as he pedals to Paris in victory. Golf does not provide the same opportunity, as drinking would be out of place for a champion golfer before he finishes the final round. Unless it’s John Daly.