When you think of someone who personifies golf, when you ask someone to name a golfer they know, when you ask his fellow professionals as to who they fear (or should I say feared) most on the course, there’s only one name spoken by all – Tiger Woods.
It could be said this golfing icon has had “a tale of two careers,” and a Charles Dickens of this era could capitalise on Woods by publishing a novel with the aforementioned title. The reputation of a once break-out athlete is now split in the middle by controversy, family issues, injuries and the Hollywood-like crashing of his Escalade.
The first half of Woods’ career was the most triumphant journey any sportsman could have dreamt of undertaking. With 79 PGA Tour event victories and 14 majors under his belt, this golfing great took the world by storm. Tiger was on a rampant hunt and he mercilessly shred his opponents to bits each week. It was a common mindset of his co-golfers to head into a tournament vying the Runners-Up spot, simply because Tiger was on another paradigm altogether. Everyone drove for show and putted for dough but each aspect of Tiger’s game, be it his driving, iron play, chipping or putting, was a grand event that left us all star-stricken.
Whether he was playing in Augusta, the Memorial or on the hallowed turf of our very own Old Course here in St. Andrews, nothing really changed for him. His game was at the peak of possible consistency and no competitor could even dream of giving him a contest. The holes they were desperately trying to make pars in were birdied with ease by Tiger and as these accumulated, so did the distance between the golfers and the great himself. Overall, the first half of his career brought such unprecedented success that he was already a man the world of golf revered.
However, due to a streak of unfortunate events, there began the steep descent and downhill spiral that brought this great crashing down to Earth. All it takes is one bad day one uncharacteristic decision and amidst all the hype and media attention that followed him, Tiger was in the news for all the wrong reasons. It was not for his triumphant wins this time around but for allegations of drunk-driving, family unrest and accidents. This led to a halt in his hunt for more silverware and a pit stop that has lasted longer than was expected.
Following these events, his reputation, once deemed as world class, was now being tarnished. Parents who had told their children to view him as a role model quickly withdrew their words of praise for him, fellow sportsmen who looked up to him for inspiration were quick to belittle him and sought other sources. It seemed as though there was nothing left for Tiger and that he was stripped of everything he had achieved – and so he began his attempt to redeem himself and to relive the good old days.
However, it has not been a cruise for him this time around and he has not taken any events by storm. Missing cuts for Tiger Woods at tournaments was unheard of in the past but it suddenly became a harsh and frequent reality. Golfers who once lived in Tiger’s shadow were now outshining his finesse. The world of golf suddenly became a level playing field. Exacerbating his ordeal, the injury-free Tiger of yesteryear was now injury prone – with setbacks leaving him out of the Tour for a good few months each season. It seemed that this was the end of what was an illustrious career, but Tiger was not willing to give up so easily- he has never done so.
Tiger is back and seems to be rekindling the style and flair he once had. He made an impressive charge at the Open in Carnoustie this summer, holding the outright lead at one stage on the back nine on Sunday before a couple of costly errors ended his challenge. There were shots that were paralleled to the exquisite strokes of the Tiger of old, and well-renowned Tiger celebrations were seen on the greens again. Fans and critics alike followed him every step of the way, admiring and scrutinizing his every move. Following the Open, he said he feels close to the levels of consistency he once had in his games. Could this bring a sense of foreboding for those competing with him? Could we see the return of a triumphant Tiger each week? Or is this just yet another false charge by Tiger Woods, a golfer desperately vying to be the great he once was. A “ tale of two halves” indeed….