by Jeff Skinner
Last year during the third round of The Deutsche Championship I followed Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover for their entire round. On one hole the tee was very isolated and roped off from the entire gallery. The only one inside the ropes and a hundred yards away from anyone were Woods, Glover, their caddies, myself and one lone policeman on security duty. It was the only time during the entire round that Tiger wasn’t surrounded by thousands of eyes. We were so alone that Tiger did what many of us do while we are out on the course: he found a tree and relieved himself. After the players pounded their drives down the fairway the cop and I walked behind them and chatted a bit. We both decided that we wouldn’t mind having Tiger’s bank account but neither of us wanted any piece of his life. His total lack of a normal life turned us both off. Those were the good old days for Woods, before his dark, scandalous secret life was brought to light.
These days Woods is faced with more issues and problems than he can count and any “comeback” has been derailed by one dilemma after another. It could be a long time before we see the “old Tiger” on the course. Which difficulty will give Tiger the most trouble? Take your pick. There are no wrong answers here.
Tiger was used to having women whenever and wherever he liked. It didn’t matter if it was an expensive hotel or the back of his car, if Tiger wanted a little action he got it, no matter what. So now with his every move being followed by the tabloids and photographers he can’t expect the same “freedom” if you will. If Team Tiger wasn’t involved with arranging his hook ups before (cough, cough) they must be now. It probably takes as much planning as the D-Day Invasion at Normandy to get Tiger and one of his female friends together now. Tiger’s sex life has probably changed a little bit from what it was before Thanksgiving.
Right now Tiger’s marriage is like one of his wayward drives: long gone and in deep trouble. According to all accounts, Tiger and Elin’s marriage looks to be over. The delay in a divorce filing is said to be due to negotiations of the settlement. A custody and financial arrangement needs to be agreed upon and it can be an exhausting and excruciating process. Elin is said to be ready to take the children to her native Sweden where she wants to raise them away from the glare of the press. Tiger supposedly isn’t willing to give up the kids and wants an agreement that allows him some type of custody. Tack on the financial settlement, which probably will include a check with a whole bunch of zeros, and you get a distraction of the monumental kind. As usual, there is nothing normal in Tiger’s life.
While many, including Tiger, may be focused on the Divorce/Custody settlement it’s the life after the divorce that could bring more stress into Tiger’s life. Raising kids is tough enough under normal circumstances. If Tiger wants to be a good father, in my book he has blown it so far, he’ll have many issues to deal with. Factor in his divorce, single parenting, the media spotlight, rebuilding a shattered career and a five thousand mile commute to pick up the kids and Tiger doesn’t have an easy road ahead of him as far as raising his kids.
Tiger’s neck injury is the most recent pothole on his road to playing good golf once again. He is hoping to return to play at The Memorial but if his game hasn’t improved what’s the point. Could his body be breaking down? After years of brutal workouts and a million or two balls pounded it may be that his body has had enough. The problem with speculating about Tiger’s health is that it is just that: speculating. We are not sure of his physical status because he isn’t really being truthful about his condition. He likes to say that he won’t comeback before he is physically ready to win, not just compete, but we have seen that not to be the case. He returned to The Masters and claimed he was healthy. After the second round of The Players he said he was fine, had no issues and was one hundred percent. Then he withdraws during the third round and says his neck has been bothering him since before The Masters. Can we believe anything that comes out of his mouth?
Tiger’s swing, his good swing, whether it’s The Harmon swing or The Haney swing, the swing he uses to make a ball do things only he can is nowhere to be found. Sure, it looks like Hank Haney took one for the team here in resigning before Tiger lowered the boom himself, but Hank doesn’t swing the club. Woods won six majors with Haney and that swing and Hank’s departure is more a sign that Tiger has lost confidence in his own swing than a reflection on Haney. Maybe he needs a new coach or maybe he doesn’t and can go solo for awhile. However, he has as much work to do on his swing as he has to do on rebuilding his personal life. Either task is enough to consume one man, both together is a colossal chore.
In addition to Tiger’s ability to make a golf ball behave on command it was his mental toughness that further separated him from the rest of his contemporaries. No golfer since Jack Nicklaus had the reputation of being a closer, a finisher like Tiger Woods has. His reputation was good for a few strokes a side when he was in the final pairing on Sunday as he intimidated all comers, veterans and rookies alike. If he needed a clutch putt for par or a creative shot to rescue him from trouble he rarely failed to execute it. Everyone knows that if Tiger needed to sink a putt on Sunday at the eighteenth it was money in the bank. His ability to focus, to almost will the ball in the hole is legendary. Regaining his mental edge could be Tiger’s biggest challenge.
Stating that Tiger has a few distractions in his life may be the understatement of the year. Any one of the issues that confront him is enough to overwhelm any man. He has physical, personal, professional and mental issues all pulling at him. A normal person would be hard pressed to recover from all this but as we know Tiger is anything but normal. He is certainly flawed, with an insatiable appetite for certain off the course activities but no one can argue that he hasn’t had the mental strength to overcome challenges before. The question here is: does he have enough left in his tank to climb out of this deep, deep hole?
Time will take care of some of his troubles. People live with divorce and custody arrangements all the time. He’ll be able to take care of his personal needs soon enough. If he can get his body healthy again he’ll find his swing or create a new one to win a few more majors. If his injuries persist he may not catch Jack’s eighteen majors a quickly as he likes. But he’s only thirty four and he’ll have another ten solid years to get to nineteen majors. It might be his mental edge that will be his biggest challenge. How much stress and pressure can one person take? For once in Tiger’s life he is not in control. It is not a familiar position for Woods. Tiger is an admitted control freak and right now he isn’t in control of much in his life. This will be the toughest mental challenge of his life. He would do well to take things slowly and get his personal life settled. He shouldn’t rush back to the gym or the course or the bars or anywhere. All things must pass. He could use a little patience for once, something that he rarely has a use for. For Tiger things seem to take too long sometimes. He is not good at taking it easy, he is never one to let things come to him. He is a “type A personality” to the tenth power and he usually goes after want he wants and goes hard. For him to deal with all these issues he’ll need a different tact. Patience is a virtue and we have seen everything but virtuous behavior from Woods of late. If a man ever needed a little virtue and a bit of patience it’s Tiger Woods.