Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tiger's Tale Told in Two Pictures

Tiger Woods at the 2010 Ryder Cup, by Mark Pain for the Daily Mail
I was alerted late yesterday by a friendly researcher who lives in my house that there was "an incredible" photo of Tiger Woods up on the Yahoo home page.

Wow, I thought, has that sex tape already been released?

In point of fact, it was a shot of Tiger at the 2010 Ryder Cup, and the blog that ran it did indeed day it was the "greatest golf photo you'll ever see."

I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree.

The picture is really an accident rather than a photograph. Tiger shanks his shot, and his ball hits the camera of photographer Mark Pain (you can't make this up) of the Daily Mail, who hits the shutter before the ball hits him. Let's all agree that the best thing about the non-moment moment is that guy on the right with the hat, mustache, and cigar.

Now look at the picture below, which a number of people have put forward as the greatest golf photo you'll ever see. It was made on the 18th tee of the final round of the 2001 Masters tournament by photographer Fred Vuich, and it famously ran on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week with only one cover line: "Masterpiece."

Tiger Woods on the 18th tee of the 2001 Masters
The magazine was referring primarily to Woods's performance at the Masters that year, but I'm pretty sure the editors understood that the picture was a perfect illustration of their point. It was a masterpiece, too. Vuich shot with a medium-format camera with a 43mm lens, and, lacking a motor drive, he relied on his own sense of timing to press the shutter button when Woods's swing was at its apex and his  face emerged from shadow. "I thought it would make a nice opener" Vuich told the Sports Shooter blog. Instead, he got something painterly, even pastoral: an ode to perfection itself, and a cover

What do you think? Is there a better photograph of the game of golf?

There's one other aspect of Vuich's picture that is remarkable, though it's something we can see only from the perspective of 2010. Vuich made Tiger small in the frame and surrounded him with the serenity and stateliness of the Augusta National golf course. Tiger, we see now, was not bigger than the game.

Pain's painful shot only highlights the fall from the grace that Vuich captured in 2001. Tiger, with one Masters win under his belt when he entered the 2001 tournament, had already fulfilled his early promise of greatness and was well on his way to becoming legend. The legend has been rewritten, the perfect swing is gone. He shanked it.

1 comment:

  1. I too was curious about the photo of Tiger everyone was talking about. What I find even better is that you went back and found Vuich's cover photo in comparison. I did not know it was taken with a medium format camera,relying on instinct and timing for the shutter. Now that is truly remarkable and gutsy to use in that kind of action orientated environment. Kudos to Vuich!