Cast your mind back to 2007, in particular to the golfing world. It is difficult to believe that the man dominating golf, winning major upon major and having the greatest popularity with people and global brands is in the spotlight for breaking the law. What has happened to the dedicated workhorse whose only focus was to rule the sport of golf?
Woods turned pro 11 years beforehand, in 1996. From there, he launched the most destructive, yet brilliant assault on the golf world. He documented the fastest rise to world number 1 from his pro debut in August 1996 to number 1 in June 1997. Atop the rankings he stayed for 264 weeks, or just beyond 5 years between 1999 and 2004. He won his first of 14 Majors just a year after turning pro, the Masters, and completed a Career Grand Slam in 2001 by holding all four Major titles at the same time. He was still only 24 by this point.
His stock exploded off the course almost as soon as he turned pro. He signed a sponsorship deal with Nike in 1996, and was one of three global faces of Gillette along with David Beckham and Roger Federer, not bad company. More sponsorship deals followed in the form of Tag Heuer and EA Sports who released a video game under his name – Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Woods was at the top of the world. Transcending golf and becoming one of the most important figures in the sporting universe. He seemed to deal with the pressure that his new found fame and success brought. At such a tender age he was the face of golf both in reality and virtually.
2008 was the year in which things began to crumble for Tiger. Two years after the loss of his father who was a huge influence on Tiger’s career and success, his infidelity to was exposed, and then exploded as it became apparent as to how many women he had sought after. He made a public apology to his wife and to those around him. But it did little good. The damage had been done. His reputation was in tatters. The once clean cut and classy public image covered in disgrace. Nike disposed of him soon after; as did Gillette and Tag Heuer. In 2015, EA Sports replaced him with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy on the PGA Tour cover.
On the course, things also began to disintegrate around him. Injuries to his knee and to his back, which was followed by multiple surgeries and a divorce brought Woods down and out of the top 500 in 2015. He never recovered to become the imposing figure that the generation who grew up competing against him feared. A new generation came through, a generation that did not feel the Woods effect. A group of golfers willing to go toe to toe with anyone else in the field regardless of their reputation.
He did briefly regain top spot in 2013, but has since relapsed. Now, he has been arrested by Florida police on suspicion of DUI.
The image of Woods is tainted beyond compare, to the point where he is entering golfing obscurity. No longer a mention of his name is heard on who might triumph at the latest tournament, he has equally slipped and been pushed out of the picture. He has stated he will be ready to return to golf in the “next two to three months”, a claim which came after his latest surgery, on his back.
His latest setback is the image of a man nowhere near ready to return to the golf course. Unkempt, and visually disillusioned, it is unlikely we will see him in two or three months, if longer. This could genuinely be the end of a once great man. A golfer who will be famed for eternity for what he has done.
His latest indiscretion in view of the public also begs the question of how long he can he considered an athlete. There’s little indication that his golfing abilities remain with him at this time, though there is no more other than theory to suggest this.
Assuming his claims that he will be ready to take to the course again in three months’ time, he faces a mountainous challenge. Not only to reach the heights of his peers, but also to win back the followers who cannot believe that Tiger will ever light up the fairway again.