Police footage shows Tiger Woods failing sobriety test before arrest
For Woods, 2017 has so far seen his withdrawal from a tournament in Dubai after just 18 holes because of injury, the release of an endearing book which marks the 20th anniversary of his maiden win of The Masters by a dozen strokes and now the kind of embarrassment that has raised fears for his future. It is still only June.
Im a friend of Tigers and I feel bad for him, said Jack Nicklaus, the only man to have won more major championships than Woods. I think that hes struggling. And I wish him well. I hope he gets out of it and I hope he plays golf again. He needs a lot of support from a lot of people and Ill be one of them.
To understand why Woodss horribly diminished state he barely plays golf now, let alone challenges in competition is so significant, is to understand what he was when his life was easy.
Born Eldrick Tont Woods in California in 1975, his golfing talent was discovered at an early age. In a sport blighted by prejudice, Woods has spoken of the discrimination he encountered in his youth and the motivation that it gave him. He also had a severe stutter as a child. Despite it all, he became so successful that he broke several records.
Having become the only player in history to win the United States Amateur Championship three years in a row, Woods easily joined the professional ranks. He claimed eight of his majors between 1997 and 2002, with 2000 seeing Woods win three of golfs four marquee events and the US Open by the age of 25. His spell as world No 1 included holding the position for 281 weeks in a row. Woods wore a cloak of invincibility which meant his very presence spooked fellow competitors. There is a compelling case for him being the finest golfer of all time.
By the end of 2016, Woods had collected $110m (85m) in prize money. Career earnings, meanwhile, have been estimated at about $1.5bn, rendering him one of the highest-paid sportspeople in history. Woods would regularly command seven-figure appearance fees and, since turning professional in 1996, has retained sponsorship from Nike thought to be worth at least $20m per year. Woods was the epitome of athleticism and the polar opposite of every negative stereotype associated with golf. He made golf more appealing, as reflected by a massive growth in television ratings.
He brought so many new people to the game, says Chubby Chandler, head of the International Sports Management group, which is highly influential in golf. Quite simply he was better than anybody else and he already had a brand when he turned pro because everyone had heard about him. He lived up to it.
Nike were clever. They didnt sign him to sell golf clubs, they signed him to sell trainers by virtue of their logo being so prominent on the golf course.
In 2012, when we arranged a tournament in Turkey, we were told at a meeting we had to have Tiger Woods playing. I said he would be too expensive. They replied that 10-15% of people in Turkey would have heard of Tiger Woods but nobody there would have heard of any other golfer. They needed Tiger.
A lot has changed in the five years since. If he comes back and plays again, he has to be reasonable, says Chandler. He cant be as bad as he has been playing. I dont want to see him embarrass himself. When he played that one round in Dubai, I said to the tournament director, We might just have seen his last round ever.
Phil Mickelson has been one of Woodss great rivals over the years. The ageing process might have softened their mutual antipathy, but it is still interesting that Mickelson speaks for his fellow professionals when articulating what Woods delivered for them.
When I won the Tucson Open in 1991 the winners cheque was $180,000, Mickelson said. I remember thinking in the mid-90s, I wonder if some day well play for a million dollar first-place cheque? I dont know, probably not in my lifetime, but I hope we do. Now we do every week and thats because of Tiger.
Woods learned so much from his late father, Earl, including a distrust of the media which has only eased in recent times. His ferocious competitive edge, one not matched commonly even in the upper echelons of sport, often made Woods rude and inconsiderate of others.
his ex-wife was caught out by this attitude. After one tournament success Elin suggested a night of celebration. Woods bluntly rejected the idea, saying: Honey, this [winning] is what we do. An obsession with pushing his body to its limits saw Woods undertake Navy Seal training. A consequence of a physically violent golf swing was multiple knee surgeries before his back problems ensued. Woods has always been deeply secretive; he would argue through necessity.
Earl Woodss death impacted severely on his son. When Tiger won the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2006, two months after the loss of his father, a first ever insight into
personal trauma appeared as the champion burst into tears on the final green.
At the same event three years later, whispers abounded regarding Woods and his extramarital antics. If those rumours circulated without confirmation, within four months, Woodss reputation was in tatters after the scale of his affairs became known. Before it emerged, Woods crashed his car into a water hydrant outside his home, in an uncanny parallel with recent events.
Woods has reflected on regret that will last a lifetime with regards the collapse of his marriage. I convinced myself that normal rules didnt apply, Woods said. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. Woods remains, by widespread acknowledgement, a doting father to Sam and Charlie.
Woods incentivised a generation of players, many of whom are now the worlds best, to get into golf.
Rory McIlroy idolised Woods from his childhood home in Northern Ireland, and hoped he would go even part of the way to emulating the Californian. Now a multiple major champion, Woods inspired him to dedicate the practice hours necessary for his own lucrative career.
As if to prove Woodss reach, a youngster in rural Queensland by the name of Jason Day pursued precisely the same dream on precisely the same basis. I read a book about Tiger and that inspired me, says Day, now the world No 3. Years later I had the courage to finally go up and speak to him you have to understand he had the Tiger aura.
Even before events of recent days, McIlroy said: I never thought Id say this but I feel sorry for Tiger. The sympathy was on account of recurring failure to recover from his back problems. Obviously there is a physical battle there but there has to be a mental struggle as well, McIlroy added.
The most plausible theory regarding the demise of Woodss game is that when he realised he wasnt infallible, that element of doubt bled into every element of his life. From 2009 when reports of his affairs hit the front pages the rules applied. It was questionable how and where Woods would gain contentment when he couldnt play golf at his earlier level. This isnt an individual with plenty of other elements within his life.
Woods appears a lost, sorry soul. The odds on him featuring again on entry lists for golf tournaments have never been longer. If that is sad given his contribution to this sport as well as the pleasure he afforded others there is a far more meaningful, human element to this bleak equation.
Tiger Woods hoists the Bell Canadian Open trophy after winning the PGA event in Oakville, Ontario in September 2000. Photograph: Andrew Wallace/Reuters
Born: 30 December 1975
Career: A child golfing prodigy, as taught by his ex-military father, Woods took the professional sport by storm. He won his first major championship aged 21 and racked up another 13 while breaking a series of records for golfing achievement. A total of 79 wins on the PGA Tour remains the second highest of all time.
High point: Success at the 2000 US Open, by a record 15 shots.
Low point: In the early hours of Monday morning, Woods was arrested in Florida after being found asleep at the wheel of his car. He was charged with driving under the influence, having slurred words and being incapable of walking in a straight line.
He says: Compete remains my favourite word, and probably always will. My parents told me it was OK for me to fail, as long as I gave it everything I had. I have given it everything I have.
They say: His domination at a time when youre bringing more and more good players along was incredible. I always refer to it kind of like Michael Jordan in the NBA. I have to put Tiger down as probably the greatest player ever to play. – Tim Finchem, former head of the PGA Tour.