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'The Swinger' tells Tiger's tale, in a work of fiction

The jacket notes for "The Swinger," a novel co-authored by Sports Illustrated senior writers Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck, begin like this:

"His name, as we all know, is Herbert X. 'Tree' Tremont, and he's the richest and most celebrated athlete of our time — a multicultural golfing icon with fifty-three Tour wins, thirteen major victories, a smoking hot wife and two adorable kids. Tree's carefully cultivated image has made him so beloved by corporate America that he is the first celebrity in history to endorse Coke and Pepsi. The world kneels at his feet.

"As it turns out, so do a good many agreeable young women. When a reporter uncovers evidence that Tree's sexual appetites are as prodigious as his tee shots, his public and private lives collide, producing the juiciest scandal in sports history."

Sound familiar?

Is Tiger in there somewhere?

You know the story. You've been reading about it and hearing about it for a long time now. But Bamberger and Shipnuck have fictionalized it in "The Swinger," basically telling the story from inside Tree's entourage.

That would include the tough old ex-military dad known as Big Herb; the ever-agitated agent Andrew Finkelman; the wife Belinda, a former bikini model from Italy; the tough guy caddy Mac McCausland and the ex-sportswriter turned communications director for Tree Corp, Josh Dutra, who narrates.

Anybody we know?

They tolerate Tree's excesses, his drinking and drug reliance and mood swings and womanizing, which he characterized as "a hobby," spending a lot of time and money on damage control, but despite their efforts he wrecks his life before he finally hits bottom.

The story of the wayward idol has gotten stale but "The Swinger" juices it back up with the unspoken suggestion that this is probably close to how the Tiger thing went down, as seen from the inside.

That would not include Tree's confession to his wife, in a fit of contrition, in which he lists the 342 women – every one of them -- he's bedded since their marriage, naming some, mentioning others like a waitress at a certain restaurant, the Tour commissioner's ex-wife and three Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, like a man doing inventory.

Not saying he couldn't, not saying he didn't, just saying he couldn't remember all that.

There is redemption in "The Swinger," sweet redemption. That's good. Probably most of us still want to see Tree make it back. That includes the authors, who wrote that their book, " is written with a smile, not with disdain for athletes like Tree, but with empathy and affection. It ends with the hope that Tree's transformation, redemption, and return to greatness may be just around the corner."

I've thought all along that Tree's fall from grace would make a good book, and it did.

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