Tiger Woods is the prohibitive favorite to walk away with his fifth green jacket at next week’s Masters. That is, he was before the world No. 1 made it back to the cover of Sports Illustrated.
As most sports fans -- and professional athletes -- believe, appearing on the front of SI can bring only bad luck. Just ask Woods’ new girlfriend.
World-class skier Lindsey Vonn graced the cover of the Feb. 8, 2010, issue of the magazine and, almost immediately thereafter, suffered a leg injury that threatened to knock her out of that year’s Winter Olympics, as Boston.com noted in a chronicle of SI hocus-pocus.
Lee Trevino knows a thing or two about the SI curse as well. A week after the publication featured the then-PGA Tour golfer (now a member of the Champions Tour) as the face of its 1969 U.S. Open preview, the defending champion failed to make the cut.
And of course, any Boston fan can tell you that SI has it in for the Red Sox. A jacked-up Nomar Garciaparra glared out from the cover of the March 5, 2001, edition and five days later team officials announced the All-Star shortstop had a split tendon in his wrist.
SI’s 2000 baseball preview issue starred first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez along with the headline, "Why the Red Sox Will Win The World Series." Well, they did reverse the Curse of the Bambino -- but not for four more years. (For anyone who doubts the existence of the SI jinx, the hated Yankees won the 2000 championship, leaving Martinez to rue his turn on the SI cover).
SI, by the way, undertook an investigation back in 2002 about whether there was anything to the hex. Of the 2,456 covers published between 1954 and Jan. 15, 2002, SI found "a demonstrable misfortune or decline in performance following a cover appearance roughly 37.2 percent of the time."
Perhaps of interest to Woods, who pal Notah Begay says in the SI article due out next week wants to win 20 majors, a sports psychologist posited that golfers and tennis players were more likely to suffer from any such evil eye than athletes who did not rely on fine-motor skills.
"Golfers were ‘jinxed’ almost 70 percent of the time and tennis players after more than 50 percent of their appearances, while boxers suffered barely 16 percent of the time," concluded SI’s Alexander Wolff.
SI has featured Woods several times on its cover in the past, often after winning one of his 14 majors. If one "kiss of death" issue stands out, though, it would be the one from March 2, 2009, that highlights "The Return of Tiger." We all know how that turned out.
This time, not only does Woods have to overcome a talent-rich field to win his first major since the U.S. Open in 2008, but he must contend with the SI whammy.
About Vonn and that jinx? "America’s Best Woman Skier Ever," as SI’s cover heralded her, went on to win a gold medal, but also crashed a couple of times, broke a finger, and was disqualified from the slalom and giant slalom.