The pictures of Tiger Woods limping off the golf course
on Thursday were worth a lot more than 1,000 words. The
pain, the frustration, and humiliation of a great life and
career gone bad, was there for everyone to see. It isn't just
the knee that is broken, but the heart, mind, will, and the swing,
that are in serious need of repairs.
At one time, Tiger was the the master of great recoveries,
a Houdini with a Swoosh that could navigate his way out of
the most perilous of situations, then emerge with a mile-wide
grin on his face. The smile is long gone, now replaced by a
perpetual grimace, which gives the world a glimpse of the
the pain in his knee and the train wreck just off the tracks
in his personal life.
It seemed like Tiger used to have an army of friends. The
gallery once followed him as if he were the pied-piper of
golf, marching his way to another jaw-dropping win. He
seems so alone now, his father and Elin long gone, his
mother Tilda, no where to be found.
His carefully cultivated, near perfect image crafted by his
father and orchestrated by the symphony at IMG, was shattered
when he barreled down his driveway 18 months ago. The
details of his sordid sex life came spewing out like the water
from the fire hydrant he ran over.
Gone was the image of the perfect family man. Shattered.
The squeaky clean image? Vaporized. His sponsors fled
like red ants who had their farm stepped on by Arnold
Schwarzenegger. Good friends quickly scattered away from
Tiger's personal Tsunami.
Since that November night, where he laid in the street in
that ambien-fueled state, Tiger has lost more than his wife,
millions, sponsors, and his reputation. He misplaced his
swing, surrendered his mystique, lost his laser-like focus and
Navy SEAL-like will.
Fellow golfers, once scared and downright intimidated
by Tiger, were taking shots at him, and even mocked him
openly. Pre-accident, pre-strippers, porn stars, and next
door neighbors, that never would've happened. Steven
Ames once made a dig at Tiger, then wound up getting
buried in a hole, losing 9 and 8 in Match-play.
Once the greatest putter to ever walk the planet, Tiger is
no better with the blade than your country club champion.
The demons may be dancing in his head, making the 8-footers
that were once automatic, now a challenge for even him.
There hasn't been a win in 20 months, or a memorable putt
to hang his Nike hat on. The magic is gone, perhaps towed
away with that black SUV outside his home on that November
Tiger has a knee that might have to be replaced in the prime
of his life and at the most critical time of his career. He's
endured five surgeries on the same one, stopping and starting
a golf schedule that is once again on pause. The pursuit of
Jack Nicklaus' record for majors, has come to a screeching halt.
Once thought to be given, Tiger may never come closer to breaking
Jack's mark of 18, than he is right now.
Tiger needs four majors to catch the Golden Bear, which
after going winless in the last 20 months and seeing the young
guns on the Tour pass him by on their drives, may seem like
the big pie in the sky.
Even if he does catch and pass Nicklaus, Tiger will never have
what he once had. The mystique, the invincibility, the image of
perfection, both on and off the course. It's all gone. The quest
to be the greatest golfer to have ever lived is now just a journey
with a driver who has been mocked, lampooned, and the punch
line of many jokes.
We all love a great comeback and the return of the Tiger we once
admired for his magnificent talent, and envied for his perfect life,
would make for a Pulitzer-prize winning story. But I think that the
Tiger we once deified, is long gone forever.