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.

Derek Carr, George Kittle rejoice in Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters win

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USATSI

Derek Carr, George Kittle rejoice in Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters win

Tiger Woods transcends sports. Whether you're a golf fanatic like Warriors star Steph Curry or not, it's likely you followed the final holes of the Masters on Sunday. 

We know two Bay Area football stars were locked in as well. As Woods won his first major since 2008 and his first Masters since 2005, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and 49ers tight end George Kittle couldn't contain themselves.

The Raiders clearly are Team Tiger, too. 

Kittle's timeline is filled with tweets about Tiger. He even responded to Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker. 

[RELATED: Tiger brings sports fans together more than any athlete ever has]

Curry called the win the "greatest comeback in sports." For these two gridiron stars, it's just another example of Tiger Woods bringing all walks of life together when he's back to winning.

Tiger Woods brings sports fans together more than any athlete ever has

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AP

Tiger Woods brings sports fans together more than any athlete ever has

After global scandal and physical decay prompted a multitude of instant judgments drawing dire conclusions, nearly all of them predicting his personal and professional demise, Tiger Woods roared again Sunday.

Roared louder than he ever could at any time in the wake of his many past successes.

And the world roared with him, louder than it ever could have before.

Coming from two strokes off the lead, Woods trampled the challenges offered by his colleagues, as well as that of hallowed Augusta National Golf Club, to win the Masters for the first time in 14 years and the fifth time since he blasted into celebrity with his first victory there in 1997, when at age 21 he immediately became the young king of American sports.

His triumph back then was seismic, with implications beyond golf and beyond sports. That was the event that put Tiger, his toothpaste-ad smile and his unique backstory into the hearts of millions of folks who had spent their lives ignoring golf.

Tiger on that Sunday in ’97 did what his father, the late Earl Woods, said he was ready to do, even as so many others said he was not.

Tiger on this Sunday, with his two children in attendance, did what only he knew he could do, with so many others skeptical and more than a few thinking he simply could not.

Not after the serial philandering and resultant domestic shame that busted his family into fragments. Not after the four back surgeries --  including spinal fusion two years ago -- that diminished his power and tested his perseverance, pushing him to brink of retirement. Not after missing the cut in garden-variety tournaments, skipping his beloved Masters three times in what should have been his prime and dropping to No. 1,199 in the world rankings.

And certainly not after 11 years without winning a major and entering this one at age 43.

He was done, right? Didn’t we all hear that? And have good reason to believe it?

Yet when Tiger decided to enter this tournament, there was a kernel of hope among his fans and CBS TV executives. No individual or team in American sports galvanizes an audience quite like Tiger. If he could be in contention entering the weekend, the eyeballs would follow.

If he was anywhere near the lead Sunday, he would dominate TV from coast to coast.

The Warriors, preparing for Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, were so captivated that coach Steve Kerr delayed video study to watch Tiger play the last two holes.

“Pretty amazing,” Kerr said.

What’s more amazing than Tiger’s win is the reaction, far and wide. His victory walk through the gallery was a trek of adoration, with a mass of humanity straining touch or be heard by a man who not so long ago surely felt unloved.

“I think Steph [Curry] almost cried,” Kevon Looney said of the team’s reaction.

Curry went straight to his phone, tweeting that what Tiger did Sunday represents the “Greatest comeback in sports.”

That Americans love a comeback story is cliché but true. Almost anybody with the right combination of gifts, with the exception of O.J. Simpson, can come back from the depths of despair.

Tiger, if only for now, is back on top because we’ve never seen anyone like him. It’s not every century that a little brown kid conquers golf. It’s not every athlete that can, in most salient ways, transcend race, religion, sexual identity and even, in this day and age, political affiliation.

[RELATED: Steph Curry shouts out Tiger Woods after historic 2019 Masters win]

Michael Jordan didn’t do that, and Tom Brady can’t do that. Neither can LeBron James nor Kevin Durant nor Curry. Only Tiger can bring this country together for a few hours with only the most vitriolic not feeling the moment.

He’s back. And we’re right back at his side, ready to eat from the palm of his hand, not because we love him but because we know what he has is so rare and special.