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'The Swinger': Tiger Woods' fall glimpsed through new novel

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods Photo Credit: Tiger Woods Press Conference/Getty Images

“The Swinger”
By Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck
272 pages, $25

There are some cosmetic differences between Eldrick T. “Tiger” Woods and Herbert X. “Tree” Tremont Jr. — the antihero of “The Swinger,” a thinly veiled version of the real-life Woods scandal by Sports Illustrated writers Michael Bamberger and Alan Shipnuck.

But it is the similarities between the two that will compel many readers to pick up the book: Both Tree and Tiger are mixed-race golfers with more than a dozen major wins, an Army-vet father, a marriage to a former model, two darling children — and, of course, scores of ladies on the side.

Tree’s escapades, like Tiger’s, eventually shock millions of fans and non-fans alike. But the world learned of Woods’ exploits through tabloid journalism. Crucially, “The Swinger” filters its account through a 47-year-old Florida sportswriter, Josh Dutra, whose hiring as a message man of sorts for “Team Tree” gives him — and the book’s readers — uncomfortable access to Tree’s secret world of steroid use and rampant infidelity.

Dutra’s narration lends the novel verisimilitude, even as its plot (whose parallels with Woods’ real-life unraveling increasingly fall away) takes an absurd turn toward the ideal. Dutra, the first writer to cover Tree as a teenage phenom, is uniquely qualified both to rue his excesses and to appreciate his sheer talent and strong but wounded personality. When Tremont plays tournaments (the book’s action is largely situated between two editions of the Masters), Dutra becomes rapt and “The Swinger” takes off.

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