Tiger Woods started the decade by providing the greatest display of golf the world has ever seen. Though he ends it in relative shame, Woods is far from the decimated icon some make him out to be, and he is bound to recover like he has in so many sand bunkers throughout the years.
Woods laid waste to his competition in 2000, claiming three-straight major titles en route to nine PGA Tour victories. Over ten seasons, he wowed us with unthinkable shots and a ferocious will to win. While the family values police insists Woods’ image is forever sullied after cheating on his soon-to-be ex, I can’t as easily condemn a man who lives in a sphere far removed from our own.
I have been associated with the golf world at many levels — as a country club bartender/waiter, player, spectator and reporter. The notion that Woods’ serial fornication will destroy his status within the sport’s community is farcical. While golf is a game enjoyed by those from all walks of life, its high-rolling base is rooted in a realm of insatiable ego, lust and greed. The blue-blood, private club universe is a parallel dimension closer to Sodom and Gomorrah than the domain which common man inhabits. Often in this world, wives are traded like stocks, reality-deficient children are used as bargaining chips, crazed gambling is synonymous with breathing and hard liquor and heavy narcotics are the staples of life.
Except for the racist element which also infects this twisted carnality, Woods has always been beloved for his achievements and showmanship. Now he’s just one of the boys, and when it comes to 90 percent of the golf-viewing public, all will be forgotten when he slips on his next green jacket or hoists another trophy. If anything, his philandering has made his golf accomplishments even more impressive. He isn’t a perfectly calculated robot after all. He’s just a guy with the work ethic of Ted Williams, the big-event fortitude of Muhammad Ali and the sexual appetite of Wilt Chamberlain.
Like religion, I don’t like mixing morality with sports. I don’t care if Woods likes to sleep with women of the service industry or sometimes marry them, just like I don’t care if Randy Moss smokes weed on his day off or if Michael Jordan plays blackjack with enough cash to feed impoverished Detroit for a month. As someone who was once defined by his vices, I get it. The strong-willed cannot be told what to do, and most of the time, no one even tries. Woods is not a social role model. He is a sports entertainer, one plagued by the invincibility syndrome suffered by virtually all male pro athletes.
Woods’ tabloid show of the last few weeks doesn’t concern me, but his association with Canadian performance-enhancing-drug user and peddler Dr. Anthony Galea does. Now facing smuggling charges, Galea treated Woods last winter during his knee surgery recovery. So far there is no evidence linking Woods to any malfeasance but the trash-diggers are lurking, and like his marital failures, any wrongdoing is certain to come out.
I have never considered Woods to be a potential underground juicer. His ripped physique is nothing proper diet and training can’t sculpt, but it has always raised the eyebrows of some silver spoon-fed fellow competitors and physically challenged sportswriters. If we find Woods’ one-of-a-kind power shots were the partial result of pharmaceutical experimentation, then and only then will his professional legacy be tarnished.
In the meantime, Woods is trying to find his way in an altered reality. His wife and kids are gone, and unsubstantiated reports suggest he soon will check into a sex-and-drug rehab facility. Hopefully the establishment has a driving range and putting green, because as winter fades to spring and the azaleas of Augusta National are in full bloom, I expect to see a red-shirted legend doing his thing, and all will seem right with the world.