Monday marked the return of the disgraced Tiger Woods to the game of golf and, as expected, there was much anticipation around the occasion. Well not the occasion of the US Masters—that was just a side issue. No, all anyone wanted to talk about was Tiger Woods the person.
And I can understand why. As a person he is somewhat of an enigma. I have to admit that I only recently found out that he is an actual person. Up until his spectacular fall from grace, I assumed that he was merely a golf playing robot—the creation of some mad golf enthusiast. And in many respects he was. He has certainly never acted very human. He especially didn’t like talking to them. The fans were kept at a distance and, judging by the comments made by some of his fellow professionals, so were they. For instance, I read a paper on Monday that asked many of his peers what they would like to ask him if they had just one question. The answers were peppered with the sort of innuendo you expect to encounter on a phone in to ‘The Wright Stuff’. I know golf is a sport for individuals, but nevertheless, it was a poignant and somewhat sad reminder of just how much distance Tiger Woods kept between himself and everyone else.
Yet despite of his aloof stoicism, sometimes the cracks did show. Now and again a bad shot would cause his rage to poke through the armour of tranquillity and although he was usually able to laugh off these tics in post play press conferences, it should have raised the alarm that beneath the smile all was not well.
I never trust a prodigy as a person. History has taught us that a glut of talent is usually offset by some grievous character flaw, which often manifests itself in some form of addiction. It seems to be God’s way of making amends for the gift. “Sorry underlings, I accidentally gave this one 10 people’s golfing ability, but don’t worry I’ll replace his sense of humour with extra narcissism and self-doubt which he will have to neuter with a horrible, debilitating vice.”
In the case of Tiger Woods, his flaws were probably accentuated or perhaps even cultivated during childhood, or, to be specific, his lack of childhood. I say probably because I can’t find sources to verify the claim, although I don’t consider it a wild assumption that someone who learns to play golf before they are two years old and wins an under 10’s championship at the age of three must have spent a fairly large proportion of that period knocking a ball about with a club and a fairly small proportion of that time learning life lessons from Pinocchio.
Still, Monday marked the golf deity’s triumphant return to the course and equally triumphant return to the press conference, which was hailed by the media as a groundbreaking victory for Woods. According to the abundant reports, his genuine smile, his promise to engage with the fans and his praise of his fellow competitors was all proof that he is human and willing to address his flaws and become a better person. But, honestly, what did they expect him to say? Think of it in PR terms – which is, I would have thought, the only way that Woods can think. What else could he have said? All other moves result in checkmate Tiger. So while the media may laud this as the second coming of golf-Christ, I hesitate to give him so much credit.
Tiger Woods has lived the majority of his life as a lucrative piece of marketing material that has been, until recently, denied the chance to learn any of life’s lessons so that he can act in manor befitting the brands he promotes. The news of his multiple misdemeanours not only dealt him a tough hand in life experience, it also outlined how naïve he is. In light of this, I very much doubt that those sponsors that remain affiliated with Woods are willing to place absolute trust in him to do and say the right things, knowing that from now on his every movement will be scrutinised by the press. His speeches, eye movement, smile, laugh, wave, walk—the media will pounce on any sign that his rehabilitation is faltering and, as such, his PR team will ensure that he is better prepped, rehearsed and regulated than ever before.
In the past we at least had his occasional on-course-explosion to reassure us that he was human, but from now on we can never be truly confident that what he says or does is the genuine Tiger Woods. He is probably spending a lot of time trying to find that guy at the moment, although sadly when he does track him down he will never have the opportunity to show us that man—the person Tiger Woods.