Commentary

Police mugshot offers evidence of just how far Woods has fallen

The celebration of that chip-in at Augusta National's 16th hole in 2005. His tears on the final green at Hoylake after claiming the Open the following year, two months after the death of his father. Winning the US Open in 2008, when in such physical distress that he barely had the use of his left leg.

In a parallel universe these would be the lingering snapshot memories of Tiger Woods. But on Monday, regardless of all the glory and the 14 Major titles that have come before, the image which will inevitably become a Tiger Woods reference for years to come arrived via a Florida police station.

Woods' face - bloated and disconsolate - said far more than the hardly insignificant cause of him being detained in the first place, an arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence.

There has previously been the chaos which engulfed his personal life in 2009 - and the cringe-inducing apology in front of a hand-picked audience. However, for all the personal turmoil, injury battles and loss of form, this has to be Woods' lowest ebb.

He has gone from sporting icon - and an individual who once prided himself on being in peak physical condition - to the subject of pity and widespread ridicule while still only 41.

In the book which chronicles his time coaching Woods, Hank Haney recalls the moment a famous rally driver entered into pre-arranged conversation with his star pupil on a range. Woods asked what the said driver ate before races with the answer - something along the lines of fast food and fizzy juice - sufficient for the golfer to shut down the conversation.

What, one wonders, would Woods think of himself a decade on when hauled into a cell at 3am?


Tiger Woods' booking photo courtesy of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. PHOTO: AFP

 
 

There are a lot of elements to this that remain unknown. At base level, there should be no tears for someone if they get behind the wheel of a car when in no fit state to do so.

Thankfully, and most importantly, nobody was hurt on account of Woods's actions. This was at best stupidity, at worst the arrogance Woods once admitted to with the acknowledgement that: "I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to."

What was telling on Monday was Notah Begay, Woods' long-time friend and now a Golf Channel analyst, stating his hope that "changes" would now occur within Woods' lifestyle. Begay will know the inside track far better than most.

At the Dubai Desert Classic in February, from which Woods withdrew after just 18 holes, it seemed to some observers that something was not right about his demeanour.

It is to be hoped the incident on Monday night is a one-off and that there is no more serious reason behind what happened but it is at best curious for Woods to be in this condition in the middle of the night when in the midst of recuperation from back surgery.

His subsequent statement insisting this incident did not involve alcohol and was the outcome from a "reaction to prescribed medications" raises questions.

Woods has spent much of his career battling serious injury. He will be well versed in matters of medicine. Why would such a reaction occur now?

In professional terms, it has long since been impossible to foresee Woods winning Majors again. Others in this sport have passed him by.

But to scoff at Woods' nadir misses the point of what joy he once brought to others. To discount that special talent, as so commonly displayed on the biggest stage, is horrendously short-sighted.

If we are witnessing the unravelling of a sporting great, there is no reason at all to revel in it. His brilliance was such that subsequent on-course toils were all the more galling.

A common misconception is that those prominent in any sport are somehow immune to personal struggles; routinely, they are more susceptible to them. Once upon a time, Woods' people would probably have been able to halt the play where his dishevelled face was broadcast across the globe. Even those powers, like Woods' own, have diminished.

This outcome, courtesy of the long arm of the law, is sad. The most extraordinary aspect of the Tiger Woods story, given the height of his one-time status, is that the emotions he now draws is pity.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'Police mugshot offers evidence of just how far Woods has fallen'. Print Edition | Subscribe