Another pro golf season has started and many have waited anxiously for Tiger Woods’ return to greatness but that doesn’t seem to be happening. His fateful downfall two years ago still carries all kinds of baggage but technically it is his putting that has not been what it used to be. The putts were bound to stop falling and have been since his last major win, the 2008 US Open, and not just the last 30 months since his now ex-wife attacked him with, appropriately, a golf club.
The golf press likes to compare Woods to Jack Nicklaus. This mostly because it’s Jack’s records he has been chasing and breaking but Jack proved to be everything TW isn’t and always will be. How incredible it would be for me to be wrong but Tiger will not unseat Jack Nicklaus as the greatest whoever played. He will not win 19 majors to break Jack’s 18. The pressure is too great. The distractions to numerous.
It’s not out of the question that Tiger is “done” and to some this is unfathomable but it won’t be the first time. Many great players have lost it at some point and they were never the same. Golf is cruel that way. Tony Jacklin, David Duvall, Ian Baker-Finch are among the many fallen but the most famous of course: Arnold Palmer and that’s really who Woods’ career mostly resembles.
Palmer, now 82, made 36 million in 2010 and of course hasn’t won a golf tournament in decades. His celebrity has made him one of the world’s most famous people and for countless years it’s richest athlete. Almost unbelievably his last major win was the 1964 Masters which capped only a six year run, 1958 to 1964 were he dominated pro golf. His lifetime status as “The King” and his 36 million from 2010 was the result of those six years. Tiger’s rein from 1997 to 2008 is almost twice that. Palmer’s celebrity caught up with him and there was no way around it and now Woods’ too.
Golf is hard and to win a golf tournament, really hard. To win a lot of golf tournaments next to impossible. It requires an obsessive will to succeed and a focus that can only be acheived with a devotion that leaves little time or energy for anything else. Becoming world famous as a result brings an distracting consequence that simply can’t be overcome in such a singular activity as golf where success is entirely self-acheived. It changes the mind and that changes a golf game.
This is what has happened to Tiger Woods. When the mind changes it’s the putting that is mostly impacted and what too happened to Palmer and why I knew it would. It’s worse for Woods though, his celebrity now shrouded in notoriety with half the fans pulling against him and this negative energy shows up at tournaments. There is nowhere he can go that doesn’t come with a certain level of discomfort.
Palmer had everybody always pulling for him and he still could’nt be what he once was. Imagine what it’s like knowing those close by (golf fans can actually touch players in the middle of the game, unlike any other pro sport) wanting you to fail where things get said and heard that aren’t nice. Make no mistake this is happening to Woods.
Heros fall hard. Tiger Woods whose past golfing greatness will forever be overshadowed, fair or not, by his superficial moral suicide. The famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh, left a body of incredible work for people to enjoy and admire. Few can recall a single painting but everbody knows he cut off his ear. It’s unfortunate and sad but Tiger Woods is what we now know him to be and this will never be forgotten and will always follow him especially to the golf course. He is not the same as before and simply can’t be. Super-human at some point becomes just human.
Heros fall hard. Tiger Woods was great.