Mmmm… on many levels it’s just got to suck to be Tiger Woods right now. As the PGA cranks it back up for another year, Woods is struggling to redefine his game, to recapture or reinvent his swing and to get himself back on track and winning tournaments. After falling apart quickly at Torrey Pines (12 bogeys and two rounds over par) a few weeks ago, a place where he had ruled, Woods imploded on Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic.
I confess, I’ve been a Woods fan, he certainly helped spark my interest in the game. I enjoy when he’s playing well and in the hunt at a tournament. His quest to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors is something that I would love to see him achieve. Not because I particularly like Woods or dislike Jack, but because it would make for great drama if Woods were to get there. It would bring millions of otherwise casual fans back to the game, and that is really the reason I watch golf and Tiger in particular. Great drama. When Tiger is in the hunt, when he’s on his game, he brings a drama to the course, an electricity to the air.
Now, Woods is struggling big time to find the magic. After watching him these last two times out, it really got me to thinking about life and the ups and downs of the game and how it mirrors so much of life. Yes, Tiger has had plenty of off-the-course issues. The divorce, is, of course, the big one in the media. The split from swing coach Hank Haney, and then there’s the whole thing with the HGH and Dr. Anthony Galea, the Canadian who is facing charges of smuggling banned substances and treating several pro athletes in their homes and hotel rooms between October of 2007 and September of 2009. The Galea story, while it doesn’t get much press, has all sorts of dark connotations. You can read more about it at these links…
The New York Times
But, what mostly interests me is Tiger’s on-the-course struggles. I certainly am not suggesting we feel “bad” for Woods. Far from it. It’s hard to feel bad for any one with that much money who brought their troubles on themselves. But, while watching Woods self-destruct at Dubai, I found myself considering what the hell that must feel like. We all have things we’re pretty good at. Golf, for me, is not one of them. I spend far too much time shooting pictures of golf courses and promoting them to spend any real time on my game, or at least what could be called my game. Nope, I have no illusions about my golf game. I just enjoy hacking away with my partner Cole, and laughing at my own ineptitude. But there are other things I’m really good at. Some of them related to work, some of them not. I’m sure you have plenty too. Imagine struggling at those things. Imagine the frustration of not being able to do what had once been easy to do.
Now, imagine the colossal frustration and inner agony of Woods. Because Tiger wasn’t merely really good at something. No, Woods was off the charts great at it. Legendary. A once in a generation, perhaps a once in a lifetime talent. Driven, focused and absolutely the very best in the entire world at what he does. And now? Well, it’s been a very long fall from Mount Olympus. A very long and painful fall.
And, unlike the things I, and perhaps you are very good at, Tiger’s crash and burn is very public. It’s right there for every one to see. Every bad shot, every errant putt, every moment of flaming self destruction is right there in front of the world, your peers, the media… in short, everyone. Imagine that feeling. As you struggle with your profession against the back drop of your personal life, the whole thing is right there. The world is waiting for you to fail again.
Yes, Woods makes some damn good money to shoulder that pressure, but I really found myself thinking “Damn… is it worth it? Could I, would I put myself through that?” And while I’d like to say that oh, sure, I wouldn’t give up, I wouldn’t fold under the scrutiny and pressure, I have to admit, I’m really not so sure. What Woods is experiencing is a very hellish thing and I’m quite sure that the money doesn’t it make it any easier when he puts his head on the pillow after a four bogey Sunday.
We have all had our struggles, or, at the least, watched loved ones and friends go through theirs. Watching Woods over this last year or so has been increasingly painful. While I have no pity for him and I’m quite certain that none of the other players do (pro sports, including the genteel, yet mano-e-mano game of golf, is a dog eat dog world), I can’t help but pull for Woods. To hope that he can find it and rise up and challenge, once again, for the top spot. His quest to reinvent his swing and his game, to find himself once again and try to ward off the young guns of the P.G.A. while chasing down Jack makes for very compelling viewing. But, more so than just the pleasure it would give me to watch it, there’s the part of me that knows my own struggles in life, my own stumbles and failures and watching Woods overcome his, well, it might give this old dog hope that I can overcome some of mine, like that serious flaw in my bunker shots.