From feared to feared for: The sad fall from grace of Tiger Woods

Golf News

A man whose mere presence at a tournament used to change the atmosphere has been reduced to a troubled enigma making more headlines off the course.

If you want to read a piece twisting the knife into Tiger Woods then you’ve come to the wrong place.

It’s bad enough to discover your hero has feet of clay but to see the man many regard as the best golfer in history – and if not then certainly in the top two – reduced to his current state is surely a cause for sadness rather than schadenfreude.

Quite what substances were in his body and what he was doing in his car anyway at 3am on a Monday morning will continue to be the subject of speculation.

As is ever the way with Tiger, in the absence of sufficient facts, any analysis quickly descends into the realms of amateur psychology.

This is a man who gives nothing away, who chose to name his yacht, lest we forget, ‘Privacy’.

It creates a vacuum, something that the internet, just as much as nature, abhors. And following the extra-marital revelations of 2009, it’s pretty much open season on any theory you’d like to propound.

Given the extraordinary nature of his childhood and formative years, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Tiger’s behaviour has become so erratic.

Please don’t think I’m an apologist for driving under the influence or the pain he has doubtlessly inflicted on his family but we are talking about a human whose life has never been in balance.

A man who bent the entire sport to his will for over a decade is currently unable to swing a club.

It pains me that for many golf fans, when they think of Tiger Woods their mind turns first to off-course matters. I prefer to remember him playing the game in a fashion I have never seen before or since.

I recall watching Tiger in the Open at Carnoustie. Frighteningly, it’s 10 years ago now. His playing partners for the first two days were Justin Rose and Markus Brier. Ahead of the second round, all three were on the putting green. Off went Rose and Brier while Tiger carried on with his preparations.

I was beginning to wonder if he’d got his tee time wrong but in fact he had choreographed his arrival to the second. As his playing partners waited on the tee, Tiger finally gave the nod and began the short walk to the first tee, flanked by security and staring straight ahead.

When he arrived, the atmosphere changed. Tiger was in his own world. Rose and Brier just happened to be there.

Frankly, it was intimidating for the spectators let alone his fellow golfers, who looked visibly diminished.

I recount this to illustrate the level of control Tiger liked to exhibit.

Make no mistake, the other players were scared of him. Which is quite something in a non-contact sport.

Incredibly, Tiger’s opening tee shot that day barely got off the ground and finished in the Barry Burn, which wasn’t even in play.

He didn’t win that Open, eventually ending in a tie for 12th. The following year he won the last of his 14 majors at the US Open and in 2009 his life began to fall apart.

Now we see him as the subject of that infamous police mugshot.

I don’t know what the truth is about his physical health, even less so his mental wellbeing. Only a week before his arrest, there was a blog post on his website expressing his intentions to return to competitive golf and an assertion that April’s back surgery had been a complete success.

You can decide for yourself how much credence you give to that. I’m pretty sure you don’t know either.

For the last few years I’ve longed to see the day when Tiger could once again compete in a major. I thought there might one last hurrah, his version of Jack’s sixth Green Jacket, at the age of 46, in the 1986 Masters. I hoped he might yet stare down the young pretenders like McIlroy and Spieth on the back nine of a major.

I wanted him to remind the world that whatever has gone on away from the course, he remained the greatest golfer we have ever seen on it. Right now, it’s very hard to imagine that happening.

Perhaps it would be more realistic to hope that he can regain control of his life and at least find some inner contentment.

You might not agree, but I wish him all the best.

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