Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Where now for Tiger Woods?

I've had equivocal feelings about Tiger Woods for many years: certainly from his peak years of success, let alone his more recent troubled times. He is undoubtedly one of the world's greatest ever sportsmen. But as a person? I can admire the focus, but why so nasty?

David Walsh (chief sports writer, Sunday Times, aka Lance Armstrong's "troll") summed it up admirably, saying

"Watching him through the years I was conflicted. Tiger's greatness came with coldness, his ambition without empathy. He fist pumped, he intimidated, he swore, he spat and he didn't care."

But also "Thirty eight years writing about sport and the greatest single performance was Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000".

Walsh will have seen a lot more major sporting events than I ever will, so I'll take that as pretty definitive.

And now? "Health is the issue, not the likelihood of winning a 15th major. You're thinking it's over when the fear is you might not be able to play tennis with your kids. That is now Woods's world."

His kids are now central to Woods's life. Maybe this will make him more "normal".

Some other golfers on the tour say he became more normal after the scandal. Walsh quotes Jason Gore, as saying "....he would look at you and burn a hole right through you, like you didn't exist. He did that to me all the time and I've known him probably longer than anyone on Tour. [After the scandal] he started asking about my wife, my kids. It was nice to see him, you know, normal."

But he is now 40 - old for a golfer, young for a man. Of course, he may yet make a successful comeback, at least of sorts. Almost everyone would be pleased to see him back competing even if winning a 15th major seems as far away as the moon, but you wouldn't write him off even now from winning tournaments if he was fit, at least for a few more years.

But I think the real question for Tiger Woods is what he's going to do with the rest of his life, whether or not he makes a comeback in the short or medium term.

At his own tournament in December he said "There's really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build towards. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel, I don't know?" He added that he now spends days at his Florida home playing video games.

This is a bleak prospect. Yes, he spends time with his kids, but they will all too quickly grow up.

Tiger Woods is one of the most recognisable people on the planet. He could be an enormous force for good in the world - the golf world or just the world. He could make a difference to the lives of people who could dearly do with helping if he used his name, fame and brand to the best effect. He could enrich himself as a person without making himself any poorer financially. He has the chance to redeem himself as a person and (I accept this is a very small prize indeed) make me a fan without reservations. But probably a whole bunch of other people too.

The problem is, how can he identify this enterprise and make it happen? Well, he's had plenty of advisers in his time, so surely he's got a decent contacts book. Even if he hasn't, I doubt he'd have a problem getting people to talk to him.

Or he can sit there playing video games and live in a virtual reality for the second half of his life.

Over to you Tiger. Your biggest challenge ever, I expect.

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