In 2009 Tiger Woods and LeBron James were on top of the sports world. Woods was married with children and playing great golf. James was still a Cleveland Cavalier attempting to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland.
Now James is with the Miami Heat. Once beloved in a segment of the sports world, he is now a villain. His image has taken a hit in the media for making “The Decision” such a public spectacle that it had induced a lot of negative press.
Woods is now attempting to get his life back together after divorcing his wife as result of his infidelity. When Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade on that Nov. 27 morning last year, who would have thought his life would have been turned upside down.
Invariably two of the most decorated athletes of this generation have been stifled for different reasons. One for making “The Decision” and the other for engaging what can be characterized as “The Crash.”
Woods’ fall from grace is now complete. In the course of a year, Woods has lost his family, confidence in his golf game, his swing coach, endorsements and now his No. 1 ranking. It also marks the first time Woods has not won a PGA Tour sanctioned event in his career.
“The Crash” was certainly the beginning of the end of Tiger Woods as we once knew him. He was coming off a great year where his surgically repaired knee that he defeated the venerable Rocco Mediate on to claim the 2008 US Open was feeling great.
Nov. 15 of 2009 was the last time Woods hoisted a trophy in triumph where he claimed the JBWere Masters in Melbourne, Australia. He was all smiles as he looked forward to the holiday to be with his family and prepare to dominate the following season. There was even talk of possible Grand Slam as all the majors were played at venues Woods’ played extremely well.
As it turns out Woods’ aspirations to win major championships suddenly turned to trying to make cuts. Woods wanted to inch closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors: Instead he was simply trying finish in the top-ten. Woods went from cementing his status as the world greatest golfer to attending rehab in Hattiesburg, Mississippi for sexual addiction.
When Woods crashed his vehicle outside his mansion at 2:25 AM it was the beginning of a new chapter in his life that would be played out for all to see. The intimate details surrounding Woods’ infidelity in his once very private life was now public.
Woods has built up a lot good will because of his ability to play golf and endorse products like know other athlete since Michael Jordon. Many didn’t want to believe that any of transgressions he engaged in could be true.
Initially Woods denied any wrong-doing. He suggested the rumors of his sexual appetite for women were extremely exaggerated. Woods blamed the media for infiltrating his world and for circulating rumors that were not fact.
With the passage of time the media became very persistent: As the coverage grew so did the list of women Woods allegedly bedded.
It was first alleged Woods was with Rachel Uchitel in Australia where he won his last tournament. Rumors were persistent and the media began digging: So much so Mr. Privacy was forced to issue the following statement surrounding his accident, “This situation is my fault, and it’s obviously embarrassing to my family and me,” Tiger continued, “I’m human and I’m not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Many, myself included were wondering exactly what the “it” was he was referring to. Many were hoping the “it” was something else. As history reveals, Woods admitted the transgressions he engaged in was indeed infidelity.
In early December of 2009, Woods announced via his website he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from golf to work on his marriage.
In January 2010, Woods checked himself into rehab in Hattiesburg, Miss., for sexual addiction. He would stay there approximately a month before checking out the first week of February.
In February, nearly three months after “The Crash” Woods finally addressed the sports world. In an 11-minute speech, Woods expressed his deepest apologies to his wife, family and friends. He vowed to be a better person and turn things around.
Unlike Kobe Bryant and Brett Favre, Woods’ then wife Elin would not be there to stand by her man. At that point the handwriting was on the wall that a divorce was likely on the horizon.
On March 17, Woods announced to the sporting world he was coming back to the Masters. Woods stated from his website, "The Masters is where I won my first major, and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta.”
Woods continued, "The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it's been awhile since I last played.”
Apr. 8- Woods teed it up for the first time competitively in five months. Many did not know what to expect. How could someone who has gone through so much public scrutiny focus enough to put his private life aside and play championship golf?
Woods’ proved that his focus could will his game back to the forefront despite the turmoil in his life: So much so I felt it was the most important round he ever played. I wrote, “Tiger Woods is back. His game was on like running water as he calmly tamed a course he ‘mastered’ at Augusta for the first time in 1997 as a 21-year old freak of nature. Now he's a 34-year old man attempting to simply get his life back in order.”
Woods shot a first round 68 as he looked like the Tiger Woods of old. He was in position to win the tournament but just couldn’t get enough putts to drop and his rival Phil Mickelson so slow down. Impressively Woods finished tied for fourth place at 11-under par.
Woods played well enough to suggest that he was indeed supernatural. He played well enough to suggest it was possible for him to ignite his laser-like focus to simply will greatness into existence upon request despite the controversy he was facing.
Not so fast my friend.
Woods missed his first cut in ages at Quail Hollow in May. Then there was talk amongst the rank and file Woods may be finished. Heading into the US Open people didn’t know what to expect from a man who fighting to save his marriage, repair his image and play winning golf.
At the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach Woods sought to recapture the form he had in 2000 when he literally smashed the competition. Ten years ago he won the championship by a record 15 strokes.
Woods once again showed flashes of his once dominate self. Going into the final round he gave himself a chance to win but made costly mistakes coming down the stretch to finish fourth.
Heading into the Open Championship at St. Andrews some felt Woods could win at the home of golf. After all, it is one of his favorite venues to play and his game surprisingly looked well enough to contend.
In July, the story of the 2009 Open Championship wasn’t Tiger Woods: The story was about the 60-year old Tom Watson who nearly took home the trophy. The venerable Watson finally succumbed to nerves as he lost in a playoff to eventual winner Stewart Cink.
Woods played poorly and didn’t make the cut.
Weeks later at Firestone Woods played the worse golf of his professional career. His game, like many aspects of his life, simply bottomed out. Woods shot 18-over par finishing one shot from dead.
Woods was playing so poorly it prompted some experts to suggest it was a possibility 2010 Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin would leave Woods off the team. As a result of his poor play Woods needed a captain’s pick to make the team.
Even though this is arguably the greatest golfer of all-time, Pavin would not totally commit to Woods being on the team. Pavin stated, "He's high on my list. He's a big consideration for being on the team."
How telling for the former No.1 player in the world with 14 Majors in his pocket to not be a shoe-in for the Ryder Cup?
We all know Woods was selected for the team and played well. Just like at the Masters and US Open he demonstrated flashes of the brilliance that got him to the top. Sadly the top isn’t a place a Woods has visited in a year.
Since “The Crash” Woods has been losing in a big way. For the first time in his life he’s looked consistently human on the course as well as off.
In May, Woods’ swing coach Hank Haney resigned. Haney stated, “I have informed Tiger Woods this evening that I will no longer be his coach," Haney said in a statement posted on his website. "I would like to thank Tiger for the opportunity that I have had to work with him over the past [six-plus] years."
Haney continued, "As we all know, Tiger has been through a lot in the past six months, and I really believe that given the chance, mind free and injury free, we will all see Tiger Woods play once again like we all know he can," Haney said. "I wish Tiger well, not only with his golf, but in finding peace and happiness in all aspects of his life."
Woods’ divorce was final in late August: He officially lost his family as he once knew it. In a joint state the divorced couple issued the following, "While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness will always be of paramount importance to both of us."
Without question, “The Crash” heard around the world has affected Woods in a multitude of ways. Woods is no longer his dominate self on the course. He has lost confidence in his game and had to rely on Corey Pavin to get him on the Ryder Cup team.
Woods has lost his family, endorsements, his swing-coach and now his No. 1 Ranking. He has also lost a certain level of respect amongst his fans and peers.
Now, after not winning a single tournament this year, it is official-Tiger has hit rock bottom.
It has been suggested for one to truly enjoy the rainbow one must first endure the rain. Without question it has been raining on Woods’ parade for a year. But with the proper attitude his future can be very bright.
Woods in the process of establishing what is normal for himself based on what he’s lost. He is finding his way through life and as he simultaneously seeks to resurrect the golfing dominance he once was able to summon be merely requesting.
The good news he has lost anything that cannot be replaced. Woods can find another wife he so desires. He can obtain endorsements from other corporate giants as well as finding a permanent swing coach.
More importantly he will find his game once again. All the great ones find a way to get it done. Tennis legend Pete Sampras at one point hit rock bottom. During the latter stages of his career he went two years without winning a single tournament. Many experts had written Sampras off as he entered the 2002 US Open but he believed he had one more in left to win.
Sampras was asked what he’d have to make last one last run at glory. He responded, “I just have to remember who I am.”
For Woods to come back strong he must do the same.
Hopefully the confidence he builds on the course will also help him make better decisions off it. Like Sampras all he has to do is remember who he is as an athlete which can hopefully make him a better person.
At 34, Woods has a lot of life and golf ahead of him. Hopefully Woods doesn’t let “The Crash” shape and ultimately define his legacy.