In what I think is the most interesting account of Tiger Woods’ struggles over the last year, the Associated Press interviews the golfer heading into Thanksgiving and actually puts together a story that made me feel sympathetic towards him. I think, in some ways, this comment and quote really captures the essence of the fallout:
Woods had spent 14 years carefully cultivating an impeccable image that brought him worldwide fame. Just like that, he went from being universally revered to roundly ridiculed.
“That’s fine, totally fine,” Woods said in Australia, leaning forward on a leather sofa, elbows resting on his knees. “I made my share of mistakes. People can look at that as what not to do, and if they choose to make fun of it, that’s fine. I can’t control that. All I know is that I can only control myself.
“And at that point in my life,” he said, “I wasn’t even able to do that.”
The other intriguing part is the players interviewed for the story — Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington. At one time PGA Tour members were hesitant to say anything about Woods that wasn’t gushingly positive. That’s clearly changed. Earlier this year David Leadbetter told me that the aura of invincibility that surrounded Woods was gone, something Ogilvy seems to support:
Geoff Ogilvy referred to Woods as a “great unknown.” They saw him on the golf course, chased by dozens of photographers and thousands of fans. He was in the red shirt on Sunday, more times than not posing with a trophy. And then he was gone.
“What does he do when he goes home if he’s not chipping and putting?” Ogilvy said. “In a perverted sense, at least we got a perspective of what he does when he’s not playing golf. That he actually does something other than play golf.
“I feel sorry for him in a way that it’s not like it was for him,” he said. “The golf world has been interesting the last 12 months. But at least the golf world made sense this time last year. It used to be such a given who was No. 1 in the world.”
Lee Westwood chimed in with this:
“If we’re all brutally honest with ourselves, he’s not had the year you’d think he would have had last year,” said Lee Westwood, who replaced Woods atop the world ranking. “I don’t want to say he’s not the golfer he was, but at the same time, golf gives you one and takes away another. Form is very fickle in golf, and it can affect anybody.”
Sean Foley has said that if he can fix Woods’ driving — his major swing issue for several years now — everything else will fall into place. Somehow I doubt it is quite that easy — either fixing his driving or Woods getting is life back in order — but I would be very surprised if he doesn’t win next year.
In the meantime, check out the full AP story.