Almost a year ago, after a difficult start to 2014 for Tiger Woods, I wrote the following column for the magazine (issue 130).
In light of the former world No.1's struggles at the start of this year, and the predictable reactions from certain social media users to them, it feels appropriate to revisit it. I stand by everything I said back then and would be interested to know how your stance on the 14-time major winner has either changed or otherwise. Enjoy!
Earlier this year, a friend of a friend sent me a link to a story on a reasonably well-known website, entitled ’10 Reasons to Hate Tiger Woods’.
A weak, limp attempt at journalism, the story listed reasons to despise him ranging from the bewildering (‘He can do no wrong’) to the straw-clutching (‘He is picky with his tournaments’).
‘Whatever’, I thought, dismissing it as just another example of lazy, baseless, PFH (‘Post Fire Hydrant’) propaganda. Except it was date-stamped May 2009.
People disliking Tiger is nothing new. For some, it has become the hobby of choice since his private life erupted in lurid detail almost five years ago. However, this article - if you can call it that - was crucifying him whilst he was still at the peak of his powers. If that’s not the definition of madness, I don’t know what is.
Actually, maybe I do. Perhaps it’s the number of people who take aim at Tiger every time he tees it up, insisting that golf would be better off without him. Never mind talking to yourself in public; that’s madness.
With apologies to Kevin Keegan, I’d love it, love it, if those people would fasten their lips because the time is rapidly approaching when they’ll get their wish - and I doubt they’ll like it.
Tiger is on the back nine of his career, no question about that. Well into it, too, by the looks of things.
He’s 38, but an old 38. . Sure, he looks in better condition than most guys, and could no doubt put the majority of men half his age to shame by lifting his shirt or flexing his muscles. But look underneath that impressive chassis and chances are you’ll find a whole host of worn, rusty parts that now creak and whirr where once they purred. A catalogue of injuries and procedures, coupled with an obsessive, almost masochistic desire to constantly push your physical capabilities will do that to your body.
It surely, though, can’t be only Tiger’s body that is feeling the effects of almost 20 years at the top of the game. It must be taking its toll on his mind, too. The highs and lows he has enjoyed and endured, all in the public eye, must have turned his grey matter more grey still. After all, he’s only human.
The more you see Tiger, the more you wonder if this is a guy who just can’t wait for it all to be done. To be through with the physical rigours and mental demands of a game that is becoming younger than he is. To be cut loose from the burden of a need to be the greatest player of all time. To be retired and left alone in peace.
Tiger... deserves better than to be told the sport doesn't need him anymore. Because it does.
Not that I’m suggesting we pity him. Tiger has tasted success the majority of us will never be able to relate to, enjoys wealth beyond any of our wildest dreams, and has made mistakes that most of us would struggle to forgive. He’s hardly martyr material.
But for what he’s done for golf, for those of us who watch it, work within it, and play it, he deserves better than to be told the sport doesn’t need him anymore. Because it does.
For the majority of casual followers of the game, no matter how well Tiger is playing - whether good, bad or indifferent - he is still more compelling than most other guys on the tour. That’s no pop at those players; rather, an indication of the star power of Woods, star power which transcends the sport and which has been the foundation for the enormous growth it has enjoyed since that ‘Hello, world’ moment.
That’s a fact. And no matter how much you dislike it or try to deny it, you can’t escape it. In any case, the TV ratings for live golf footage bears out the truth time and time again. They’re up when Tiger plays, down when he doesn’t. And if you think that’s coincidence, then there’s nothing more I can do for you, I’m afraid.
There will be plenty of time to forensically pore over Tiger’s ‘transgressions’, misdemeanours, and cavalier moments when he does finally call it a day. Until then, though, maybe we should all just do our best to enjoy him.
Tiger Woods :: Your thoughts
Do you agree with Michael McEwan that it is time people stopped knocking Tiger Woods? Or do you think he deserves everything he gets? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.
This column was first published in issue 130 of bunkered (April 2014).