Golf

Tiger Woods' DUI arrest not really a stunning development

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AP

Tiger Woods' DUI arrest not really a stunning development

Tiger Woods’ DUI has led to an awful lot of hand-wringing by people who either enjoy his slow but steady fall from grace, or want it to be a sudden plummet from grace.

The first group – well, schadenfreude is very marketable stuff these days, because so many of us choose personal misery and the right to distribute it to others on a moment’s notice.

The second group is just wrong.

Woods’ iconic years are almost a decade behind him, and his reduction through hyper-celebrity and eventually to run-of-the-mill clickbait has been a slow and overly tortured process. We have clung to his myth far too tenaciously for either his good or ours, and the reaction to his arrest and mug shot are both predictable and tedious.

There is no cautionary tale here. All the longform pieces about his tortured soul have been exhausted, and the amateur psychological studies have just become well-worn paths to the same conclusion – namely, that he was a very big deal, and through time and erosion is no longer so.

He has won six times in eight years, and no majors. He has had one burst of exemplary golf since in this decade and the rest of the time has been at best day-to-day, and at worst a perpetual patient. He is not a tragic figure, he is merely someone whose body and soul could not keep up with the rigors he damned of them.

So in that way, today’s arrest isn’t really a stunning development. It is bad, because all DUIs are bad. It is sad, because he had the access to at-a-moment’s-notice drivers above and beyond Lyft-level.

But if we must categorize this, it is mostly a reaffirmation of gravity. He rose mightily, he filled the sky for a time with a spectacular aurora, but he did not achieve earth orbit, except in the prurient new world in which everyone is reflexively famous until we decide otherwise, and now he is in re-entry.

Compared to the height of his fame, it is a massive fall. But it didn’t happen all at once, and this arrest may not even be some gothic tale of rueful self-examination. It might have been just him getting plowed, refusing to acknowledge his impaired state and trying to drive when he clearly should not have done so. It didn’t have to be any more melodramatic from that.

In short, Tiger Woods’ DUI is bad enough, because all DUIs are objectively bad. He deserves no sympathy for a stupid choice, and he shall have none. But it is not a plot point unless you decide in your head that it is, in which case it isn’t his story but yours. You want him to be a disgraceful character or a tragic figure, and as is typically the case, it is probably neither of those two poles.

The answer, of course, is most likely Occam’s Razor – the obvious one. A guy got drunk and reckless. It isn’t more evidence of a tortured soul as told by his most avid followers and his fellow torturers.

Nevertheless, we will try. Even in the current social media age, some stories hold more helium than others only because we choose to pump more into them. Tiger Woods drove drunk, and now we will decide what it means. It’s another story that is more about the reader than the subject.

Tiger enters The Masters exactly how you want him to -- the big-name underdog

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AP

Tiger enters The Masters exactly how you want him to -- the big-name underdog

There is something vaguely unsettling about Tiger Woods and The Masters this week, and it isn’t Tiger Woods or The Masters.

What it is, is the loud and persistent desperation of the golf-viewing nation that Woods BE the reason for The Masters this week. He is back playing after years of psychic and (mostly) physical issues, and his place on the odds board (12-1, behind four other golfers at 10-1) seems like the right place for him.

Except that that number will be bet down frantically this week as more and more people who want to turn back the clock 15 years throw their disposable income at what used to be. That is very much part of the Tiger Effect here – a look back at what used to be and what can probably never be again.

But in doing so, those people, most of whom are the same people who claimed that Tiger Woods changed golf, are showing that golf wasn’t changed as much as a “Tiger fixation” was created. The much-needed revolution he was supposed to have sparked in the sport was actually an army of eyeballs that watched him with a laserlike focus but then stopped watching until he came back. Indeed, the promised change in how golf looked came not on the men’s side but in the LPGA, where the leaderboard is more routinely global.

There have been great golfers in this decade – Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory McElroy – but none have resonated in the same way, which is understandable given how difficult an act Woods was to follow. What we have discovered, though, is that Woods wasn’t actually a golf phenomenon but a singular phenomenon, a one-man revolution who will take the revolution with him when he retires for good.

And that’s not about him, that’s about the audience. The audience didn’t necessarily want what he was selling, they wanted him selling it, and they want him selling it now. And they will be the same people who will dismiss the sport once he re-retires because they wanted it to be about him and only him all along.

True, this is a generalization, and not all people feel this way. But no other 42-year-old who has been unhealthy for most of the past decade would be a 12-1 bet to win The Masters, or even on anyone’s mind. Tiger Woods is his own entity, and he comes bearing both the bully’s resume and the underdog’s narrative. He gives us both of the things we find most compelling in sports – the vision of the indomitable giant and the heroic underdog, all in one body.

So, Tiger Woods isn’t about Tiger Woods at all, but about the American sports fan’s twin psychoses – the big-name underdog. You know, sort of like Sister Jean sitting on the New England Patriots’ sideline.

See why it’s unsettling? That image alone just made my soul leak through my shoes.

Tiger Woods' return ends with best finish in four years

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USATSI

Tiger Woods' return ends with best finish in four years

NASSAU, Bahamas — Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods both had cause for celebrations large and small at the Hero World Challenge.

Fowler rallied from a seven-shot deficit by opening with seven straight birdies at Albany Golf Club and closing with an 11-under 61 Sunday for his second victory worldwide. It was the second time in his eight years on tour that he won multiple times around the world.

Woods had his best finish in four years.

Playing for the first time in 10 months while recovering from a fourth back surgery, Woods closed with a 68 despite a bogey-bogey finish. Even so, his back felt good and he was swinging at full strength. He tied for ninth in the 18-man field, his best result since a playoff loss at this holiday event in 2013.