It’s safe to say all of us were shocked to hear the news of Tiger Woods being injured in an auto accident the day after Thanksgiving, with accompanying thoughts of the potential impact any serious injuries would have on his quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record for majors, let alone what the golf world would do without him if he was forced to rehabilitate and perhaps be unable to return.
In the subsequent days and weeks as reports of Tiger’s personal problems were brought to the surface, we stopped thinking about Tiger’s status as a player and started pondering how his image might be changed by the whole sordid affair. After all, Tiger’s famous face is everywhere, and not just on golf advertisements.
In addition to the canned reaction from the talking heads of various news outlets and the feeding frenzy taking place amongst the tabloids, I’ve sensed a real sense of betrayal – not only from wives everywhere and Tiger’s fans, but from golf journalists themselves. A good share of them don’t seem to care much about what Tiger did, it’s the fact that Tiger’s carefully crafted ‘good guy’ image has turned out to be so phony after all this time – and how those covering him have bought into the charade (and perpetuated it) throughout his career.
It’s always appeared to me that golf journalism concerning the PGA Tour has been about fearing the ‘wrath’ of Tiger. Earl Woods used to say the door only swings one way into Tiger’s doghouse, and as a result, golf journalists have gone out of their way to make sure they weren’t trapped on the bad side of the door.
There has been a plethora of stories about Tiger’s charity work, his fondness for kids and the good work that his Foundation is doing to serve the next generation – all well and good. There’ve also been many stories and testimonials from friends who’ve claimed that Tiger is ‘misunderstood,’ and he’s really a normal guy to those who know him. Tiger’s been immortalized as a great athlete, but also as someone to be looked up to. The positive news coverage almost placed him on a level no one could reach. Golf journalists led the way in this respect.
As a result, Tiger’s atrocious on-course behavior has been largely overlooked for years, and the fact that this tremendously talented athlete really didn’t serve as much of a role model while ‘performing’ on stage didn’t receive a lot of say so. How can someone report the stroke-by-stroke results without commenting that Tiger’s spoiled-brat behavior was just as noteworthy? How many kids have witnessed in person the f-bombs, throwing clubs, scowls and piercing stare of this man – only to see stories written about how they should ‘be like Tiger’ and advertisements asking them to favor Tiger’s products?
That’s the image of Tiger we’ve seen in public – the details of his private life have only been a recent revelation.
Something hasn’t been right for a long, long time when it comes to Tiger. Did we ever suspect that he would be revealed as a serial adulterer? Hardly. But it also seemed obvious that something would emerge to reveal a darker side of the man who’s been so careful on the record to steer things the way he wanted them steered, yet can’t control himself while partaking in a game where he’s the best in the world.
And now golf journalists don’t care about being in Tiger’s doghouse anymore, either – it’s open season on the man, with many of those same writers feeling liberated to say anything they want – on Tiger’s morality, his legacy and finally ‘revealing’ the fact that Tiger’s robotic behavior off the course was never looked upon very highly by the profession.
I’ve never been a fan of Tiger’s – I’ve admired his accomplishments and his unique ability to perform under intense pressure – so the fact that he’s now naked before the world as an imperfect human being, if anything, will only make him more interesting to watch. Welcome to the human race, Tiger!
One way or another, it’s a heck of an end to quite a decade in golf – and we can only hope that things clear up in the months to come.