Bleary-eyed and dishevelled, Tiger Woods› mugshot is an image far removed from that of someone who was once the world›s pre-eminent sportsman. The 41-year-old American›s arrest, combined with hours spent in the cells of Palm Beach County Sheriff›s Office, represents another low in his troubled life.
This was someone who had it all. No- one has ever dominated golf in the way Woods did between 1997 and 2008, no- one has made more money out of the game. Back then, as a supremely gifted 32-year-old, he commanded the perfect profile with a beautiful young family. Sport›s first billionaire seemed on course for golfing immortality as he stood just five majors short of the great Jack Nicklaus› record haul of 18.
Then came his first brush with the law through the careless driving that sent his Cadillac Escalade into a water hydrant on Thanksgiving night in 2009. The fallout was devastating as it be- came apparent that he had been a serial adulterer. His marriage crumbled; his public image was left in tatters.
Nevertheless, Woods carefully rebuilt his career and standing. Never again did he land a major but he climbed back to the top of the world rankings in 2013. Thereafter, it was his failing body that brought him down. In April, he had a fourth back operation having played only 10 tournaments in the past two years.
Woods last blogged about his health on 24 May. He wrote that the surgery had relieved pain and that he hadn’t “felt this good in years”. He claimed the outlook for a return to competitive golf was “positive” but that he was not in a “hurry”. “I want to play professional golf again but I’m not looking ahead,” he said. “I can’t twist for another two and a half to three months.
Right now, my sole focus is rehab and doing what the doctors tell me. I am concentrating on short-term goals.” Very few people have ever properly known what goes on in Woods’ life. He jealously guards his privacy in his Flor- ida home close to the Jupiter location where he was arrested. What is known is that he has already set his sights beyond his playing career with the launch of Tiger Woods Ven- tures, which operates under the label TGR.
“TGR is my chapter two – my way of building a legacy that’s about more than birdies and bogeys,” he has said. Promoting the business project, his website states: “Led by Tiger’s vision and inspired by his commitment to excellence on and off the golf course, TGR unites its namesake’s ventures in a focused mindset, a precise method, and an ongoing pursuit of mastery.
“Together, we’re working to give ev- eryone the opportunity to define excel- lence for themselves.” It is a mission statement completely at odds with his current predicament. Corporate America tends to take a dim view of such misdemeanours. We wait to see how his golf sponsors will react. Long-term supporters Nike stood by the former world number one during his previous fall from grace and is likely to remain loyal.
It is harder to judge whether Taylor Made – his club provider – will be as for- giving. Woods is supposed to be doing ev- erything he can to regain the fitness to wield its products. Being arrested at 3am on a drink-driving charge does not fit with that programme.
But Woods’ challenge now is no lon- ger just about returning to full physical fitness – indeed that may yet prove im- possible. With this arrest, it is now about repairing an already reconstructed pub- lic image that will be so vital to his post- playing career. One look at that mugshot tells you how a big a test this is going to be.