Tiger Woods’ response to being asked if he could see a scenario where he doesn’t return to competitive golf almost broke the internet this week.
The words that followed didn’t do much to inspire confidence either.
“I don’t know what my future holds.”
This from a guy who, not so very long ago, attacked the future with Zen-like tunnel-vision and singularity of purpose.
He famously had it blu-tacked to his bedroom wall from a young age. Be the greatest golfer of all time, or words to that effect.
That was his future and, for the longest time, seemingly his destiny. In a sport where a multitude of variables can and will indiscriminately contrive against you, Tiger did the unthinkable – he dominated.
Then he crashed into a fire hydrant.
The beginning of the end.
He’s gone from being a guy who won seven times in four different PGA Tour seasons to a guy who hasn’t won in over four years and who can barely stand upright, never mind play golf.
His body? Brittle presumably, battered by a lifetime of swinging clubs, lifting weights and a succession of injuries.
His aura? Gone, long ago.
His future? He said it himself – uncertain.
So, here it is. A plea, against my better judgement and journalistic instincts.
Please, Tiger. Enough. No more. Walk away whilst you still can.
I’ve written tens of thousands of words about Woods over the years. I had a headline and lede for the story on his nineteenth major win mapped out in my mind years back. Writing about 'Tiger, the golfer' has been a fun professional privilege.
But here’s the thing about stories. They end.
It’s in his own best interests for Tiger to officially end chapter one of his. He’s already started ‘chapter two’ – his words, not mine – with the launch of Tiger Woods Ventures (‘TGR’ for short) last year. Yet he can’t seem to bring himself to move on.
I get it. Easier said than done, right? But Tiger owes golf nothing. Nada. Not a thing.
The professional in me wants more. The fan, too. But the fellow man? The fellow man says call it a day. Do the one thing you’ve programmed yourself never to do – quit.
This is the harsh reality. Eight different guys under the age of 25 won roughly a third of the events on the PGA Tour this season. They’re fitter, younger and built in Tiger's image. He showed them how to do it and now they are. In the context of the PGA Tour, he's gone from being the man to an old man.
Everyone has to walk away eventually. It’s the lucky few who get to choose the time and circumstances under which they do.
You, Tiger, have that luxury. Take it and don’t look back.
It’s the right thing to do, the sensible thing to do and, quite frankly, the only thing left to do.
People can say what they like about the FedExCup. They can knock it, deride it, lambast it, snigger at it – whatever. None of that matters. What is entirely more relevant is this: it kept the best golfersz in the world playing almost right up until the end of September and saw the best player in the game this year take the $10m jackpot. Is it perfect? No. But it works, and works well.
This week, I have been… watching constant replays of Matthew Southgate’s hole-bound putt being derailed by a rogue leaf. A thoroughly weird incident and a costly one for the Englishman, too. By failing to replay his putt from its original position, he incurred a two-shot penalty, plus two more for signing for an incorrect score. There’s been much gnashing of teeth over this. My take? I sympathise with Southgate… to a point. Yes, it was a brutally unfortunate break but what is the point of having rules officials if you’re not going to call them in? Something out of the ordinary has just happened to your ball - would you not want to double-check how best to proceed? It takes only a matter of minutes, if that, and gives you peace of mind to batter on without penalty.
According to a survey (of only 2,000 people, so let’s not get carried away), Brits think that golf is the most boring sport of all.
Have these folk never heard of cricket?
And finally… The Presidents Cup build-up was rather overshadowed by comments made by US vice-captain Davis Love III about American athletes and their national anthem protests.
I'll be honest, Love’s comments disappointed me. Not his decision, nor that of the American team, not to protest. That’s their call and their call alone. Rather, it was Love’s pointed suggestion that those who do protest during the national anthem are in some way disrespecting their forebears or country – that’s what made me wince.
Just as it is not for me to call into question the US team’s decision not to protest, it is not for Love (or anybody) to call into question those who do. Peaceful but powerful protest is each and every American’s democratic privilege. It’s right there in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Until such times as laws are broken, it simply doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with the sentiment, location or timing of the protests.
Given golf’s enduring image problems – the perception of it being a middle-class, predominantly white sport for the privileged few is proving hard to shake, particularly in parts of America – Love’s comments did the game no favours.
I respect and would defend to the hilt his right to speak his mind. I just wish he had handled it more delicately and with greater consideration for the consequences of his words.