Culture / Sporting Life

Tiger Woods and Girlfriend Erica Herman’s British Open Exit Says Plenty: Walkaway With Tiger’s Kids is Meaningful — and Very Different From the Elin Days

BY // 07.23.18

Tiger Woods did not leave the British Open in a fit of simmering rage. He did not stomp out of Carnoustie, make a beeline for the parking lot and slam the door of a waiting ride.

Instead, he walked out with his kids (11-year-old daughter Sam and 9-year-old son Charlie) and his new girlfriend Erica Herman surrounding him. He wasn’t leaving any of his loved ones in the dust either. They set the pace.

It’s a small thing, but it’s quite a contrast from how Tiger Woods often departed from tournaments that did not end the way he wanted in his prime. I was a golf writer during the dominant days of Tiger. Walking the last 36 holes of his epic 2008 U.S. Open victory (won on a broken leg) inside the ropes remains one of the biggest thrills of my journalism career. Baseball legend Reggie Jackson even joined the media lucky enough to have inside the ropes armbands for the 18 hole Monday playoff.

But I also saw the Tiger who barely tolerated fans, tournament volunteers or reporters on some of his worst days. That Tiger would have been livid if he took the lead in the back nine of a major (as he did in Sunday’s British Open) and failed to close. Sometimes, that Tiger almost appeared to forget that his then wife, Elin Nordegren, was faithfully following him around the course.

That’s how hellbent that Woods sometimes seemed on getting away when disappointed.

This new 2018 Tiger finds the positives and smiles at his kids. His current girlfriend is not a celebrity, a Las Vegas model or a knockout Swedish nanny. The 33-year-old Herman is a restaurant manager who always held regular jobs (she was hired to manage the world’s most famous golfer’s own restaurant before they started dating).

Introducing Pêche

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The 33-year-old Herman seems to be another grounding influence in his new life.

This Tiger is definitely not as cold blooded. Maybe that hurts him in his long-stalled quest to break Jack Nicklaus’ Majors record. But at age 42, it makes for a much fuller man.

Better Man, Worse Golfer?

Tiger Woods isn’t back to being a stone-faced golf destroyer. His playing partner on this championship Sunday, Francesco Molinari, ended up winning the Claret Jug by only shooting 2-under in the final round. Woods could only manage an even par 71 on the day he wears red despite the early round brilliance that had NBC executives fainting in joy.

“I made a couple of mistakes today,” Woods tells the NBC cameras afterwards.

They came right after he grabbed the lead, right at the time the old dominant Tiger always stepped on an opponent’s throat.

Double bogey. Bogey. Magic gone.

This Tiger somehow seems to largely be taking away the positives from his time in Scotland. It’s a missed opportunity for sure. But it also shows this new Tiger Woods is still capable of winning a major. It’s probably only a matter of time now. No. 15 will come at some point.

In some ways, Tiger Woods is relearning how to win while not being an jerk. This is something Michael Jordan, one of Tiger’s biggest superstar influences, never was forced to learn. The greats seldom have to make allowances.

This adjustment is part of why Tiger Woods remains the most fascinating figure in sports.

He’s no longer the most talented golfer on the planet. He’s no longer anything even close to a sure bet. He’s no longer a simmering powder keg when he does not come through either.

This has to be better for Tiger Woods, the man.

There are a lot of things to take from  this sixth-place finish, Woods’ highest in a major since 2013. I’ll most remember the walk out, when Tiger Woods acted like a good dad and a good boyfriend first. When he looked out for those around him rather than stewed in his own disappointment.

That’s progress too. That’s championship caliber in a whole different way.

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