Now, Only Golf Can Help Woods Reclaim the Tiger
Because golf is all Tiger has left. 
Because golf is all Tiger has left. (Photo: Reuters)

Now, Only Golf Can Help Woods Reclaim the Tiger

Lost in every sense of the word, golf and golf alone can now save Tiger Woods from himself. Golf is what God seemed to have made him for. That’s what he was good at. Change that: that’s what he was great at.

Woods, even at his best, never belonged to anyone. His father, Earl, may have helped make some parts of what we got to see on the golf course. His father was probably the only person he was ever ‘close’ to.

By the time he lost his father, Tiger Woods had won 10 Majors; he would win four more. But now when you put that entire thing in retrospect and revisit 3 May 2006, the day Earl Woods breathed his last, you get the feeling that a part of Tiger Woods, too, died with him that day.

It did not show for some time. Or, maybe it did but we did not recognise it. In his first Major (2006 US Open) after his father’s death, Woods missed the cut for the first time at a Major in his professional career. But then he summoned strength and courage and raised his game to a level resembling 2000-01 (when he four Majors in a row and three in 2000 alone). Over the next eight Majors – from 2006 Open to the 2008 US Open, he won four times and finished second three times! Then, the wheels, slowly but steadily, kept coming off.

 Tiger Woods (R) hugs his father Earl at a press meet in  New York on 19 May 2007. (Photo: Reuters)
Tiger Woods (R) hugs his father Earl at a press meet in New York on 19 May 2007. (Photo: Reuters)
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First came the injuries in 2008, days after his epic 2008 US Open win, which came in the first play-off hole of a sudden-death following a 18-hole play-off. That means he played 91 holes for his 14th Major. He never won another. Or at least, he hasn’t since.

Then it all began pouring out – personal crises; the string of mistresses; the injuries and surgeries. As the stone rolled down the abyss, it kept gathering momentum till a couple of nights ago, when it seemed to stop with a thud – a belted-up Woods asleep at the wheel of his Mercedes, endangering his own life on the road in Jupiter, Florida, in the dead of the night.

2009: Beginning of the End?

Since that Thanksgiving day in 2009, when news broke about his unfaithfulness and much else – and with Woods backing his car into a fire hydrant before a golf club was used to break the glass on his vehicle – his life has been in a downward spiral. All hell broke loose, literally.

Within a year, his marriage was gone; his golf touch was gone; his sponsors began leaving him and then came a string of injuries, back problems and so on. He was even more far removed.

Yet he came back to the only thing he knew and knew well – his own golf game. In 2009, before his life went off the rails, he had won six times; then he won nothing in 2010 and 2011. Was that the end, we began speculating – if he could not win, what else could he do?

No, he came back to win three times in 2012 and five times in 2013, and even became World No. 1 once more.

Tiger Woods poses with the Gene Sarazen Trophy after winning the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship PGA golf tournament in Doral, Florida 10 March  2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Tiger Woods poses with the Gene Sarazen Trophy after winning the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship PGA golf tournament in Doral, Florida 10 March 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

2017: Another Year, Another Failed Comeback

But once again, injuries tailed him, and things have not been the same. No wins and now no tournaments either. He has played two rounds and missed the cut at Torrey Pines and then limped off with another injury in Dubai. That was in 2 February 2017 and he has not played since.

News from the Tiger camp has always come in dribbles. But speculations from the rest of the golfing world come in torrents. More often than not, news about his operations have been put out after the event, rather than before. And Tiger’s is one camp from which there are ‘no leaks’.
This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, 29 May 2017, shows Tiger Woods after he was arrested for DUI.&nbsp;<a></a>
This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, 29 May 2017, shows Tiger Woods after he was arrested for DUI. 
(Photo: AP)

And so it has been this time when Woods was found sleeping in the car. News kept trickling in on whether or not he was drunk; but the ‘mugshot’ released by the police will now be stuck forever alongside the famous fist pump from 1997 Masters. Now we learn there was no alcohol, but a bad reaction to a mix of medications. Probably true, since the breathalyser tests showed no alcohol.

How does he face his kids? How does he face himself in the mirror?

Asleep at the wheel of his Mercedes, endangering his own life on the road in Jupiter, Florida, in the dead of the night, Woods was truly lost, as he told the officer, when woken up. He did not know where he was or what he was doing. That, some may say, has been the case for some time now.

At the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas late last year in 2016, when someone asked a player if Tiger still moved the needle in the golf, the answer was something like, “Tiger does not move the needle, he is the needle.” That week, he even shot a seven-under 65 that reminded us, lucky ones, of what we were once used to seeing from him and what we had now lost. That was also the last time he played four full rounds of golf in a tournament.

Last week he told us “how much better” he was feeling. And there lies the hope. Only he can summon up the courage and play the game again like he once did. This time, too, he needs to shut himself from the rest of world. But this time, not just to win golf tournaments, but to reclaim the Tiger Woods he can still be.

(The writer has seen and covered international golf, Majors and Tiger Woods since late 1990s)

(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of Tiger Wood’s 42nd birthday. It was first published on 31 May 2017.)

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