Who would have thought that a single car accident, where the driver backed out of his driveway onto a private road and struck a fire hydrant, would cause so much damage? Well, Tiger Woods found out how much damage a seemingly inconsequential event could have. In the week following this freakish accident, Tiger Woods went from being one of the most respected and admired people on this planet, viewed as almost a superhuman figure, to a severely flawed adulterer.
As someone who looked up to Tiger as a role model, followed him hole-by-hole in a dozen professional tournaments, and saw him as the most mentally tough, dominating and driven person on this planet, the events that unfolded were particularly tough. But, there are some valuable lessons that can be learned from Tiger’s apparent collapse.
First, we must be careful and compartmentalize our heroes and role models. Just because someone can hit a golf ball better than anyone else in his generation, this does not make him a great person. Rather than thinking of people as transcendent and unflawed, we should take what they do at face value. An athlete plays a sport, an actor acts, a writer writes and so on. The fact that Tiger Woods slept with over a dozen women while married does not take anything away from his accomplishments on the golf course. It just shows us that if we choose to admire Tiger, it is precisely for what we know – that he is a great athlete.
Second, we really have no clue what these public figures are really like. A few months ago, Tiger Woods would have been the last person I would have picked to be cheating on his wife and acting as immaturely as he has. He seemed like a person who had everything figured out – a dominant athlete who also was a philanthropist and able to put family first.
Third, you can never escape who you really are, no matter how hard you try. Tiger Woods’ management team spent over a decade crafting his image, painting him as a person with unparalleled focus, discipline and talent, while also being a well-rounded family man and charitable, establishing and immensely supporting his own foundation.
We now know that this was not the real Tiger. The real Tiger was the one I tried to ignore. The Tiger who I never saw sign a single autograph for a kid at a tournament. The Tiger who is infamous for being a poor tipper, who intimidates his opponents, who loves racy jokes, curses on the golf course and is extremely unfriendly to the media. This goes beyond those small indiscretions. The Tiger I discovered lost his moral compass and had no qualms about cheating on his pregnant wife, and calling his marriage a sham concocted to help his image
The best handlers Tiger could find were not able to shield him from his true self, and everyone with access to any news source knows the kind of man Tiger Woods is. No amount of money Tiger offered these women or any legal team could stop this information from coming out.
How can Tiger get back on track and put this behind him? He will need to do a major TV interview in which he owns up to his mistakes and apologizes to his family and fans. A statement written by his agent and posted on his website will not suffice. We need to see Tiger and hear directly from him. Until then, the speculation and conjecture will not stop.
It is also imperative for Tiger and his own family’s well-being that he get back on the golf course as soon as possible. As long as Tiger is out of the public eye and not playing golf, all the articles written about him and the only thing that we are interested in is, “how many women did he sleep with?” “Where is he hiding?” “How is his wife dealing with his affairs?” The paparazzi will continue to hound his wife, Elin, and his two young children. However, once Tiger wins another major, what we will be asking is “will he break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors?” and “Is he the greatest golfer of all time?” The focus will be shifted away from his personal life, and it will be easier for him to resolve his problems with the spotlight on his golf accomplishments instead.
When Tiger Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant, his whole life changed and his image was shattered. Whether or not he will be able to rebuild his image and win back the millions of fans he has lost remains to be seen. We also do not know if he will be able to save his marriage, or what effect this will have on his young children. However, I am confident in saying that when we look back on Tiger’s magnificent career after he retires decades from now, if he comes back as strong as ever, this will be just a footnote in the life of one of the most dominating performers golf has ever known. If he allows this incident to overwhelm him and does not return to form, it will be tragic.