It only took him one year as a professional to win his first major title. But it took just a few months to place his entire career under the sign of doubt. And another three years to once again climb back to the top of the golf world rankings.
Observation skills test. Picture No. 1, November 24th, 2009: Tiger Woods is golf’s world number one. A winner of fourteen major championships, he is considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all times. He is one month away from turning 34 and has the better part of his career still ahead, with high hopes for winning many more trophies. He is a sportsman with the highest endorsement earnings, reaching annual incomes in excess of 100 million dollars. His image is spotless: five years married to Swedish model Elin Nordegren, with whom he has two children – a girl, Sam Alexis, and a boy, Charles Axel.
Picture No. 2, December 11th 2009: Tiger Woods is (still) golf’s world number one, with fourteen majors to his name and still recognized as the greatest of all times. He is days away from his 34th birthday, and his future is uncertain, both in regards to his professional and his personal life. He has just gone public with admitting to multiple infidelities (the number of the women who confessed to having had affairs with the American golfer is by now over a dozen). He has announced he will be taking an indefinite break from the sport. His wife has filed for divorce. Some of his sponsors have abruptly terminated their contracts with him. Please spot the differences.
Three and a half years have passed, a difficult time for the proud, worthy Tiger Woods. Years through which some have stuck by his side, placing their friendship above the shocking disclosures, but also years during which many have judged him, labelled him with tags like “unfaithful”, “cheating”, “immoral”. Years when he had to endure heavy, scrutinizing, accusing, suspicious looks. Years when he had to address his sex addiction – he committed himself and spent 45 days in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi addiction clinic – and to own up to the mistakes of his past. Years when his golf playing and performances also suffered. But at the same time years during which, he claims, he has come to understand many things and has been able to change. As a person, and perhaps as a golfer as well, without altering, however, the distinctive marks of his playing style.
One year after the scandal, Woods gathered up the courage to step into the spotlight and talk about himself, about how he felt. “[I’m] just more clear, more clear about my perspective, who I am, where I want to go”, he confessed during an ESPN Radio interview on “Mike & Mike in the Morning”. “It’s amazing how much better I feel internally each and every day”. He then added he wasn’t at all proud of the way he had acted in past years.