Tiger Woods: Time for the PGA Superstar to Be Honest

Mike LynchContributor IIIJuly 9, 2011

NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA - JUNE 28: Tiger Woods speaks to the media during a press conference before the AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club on June 28, 2011 in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Tiger Woods has tried to spin his public image since his days as an amateur. We were led to believe that he had a perfect father who helped him overcome numerous obstacles to be a star. It was never mentioned that Earl Woods walked out on his first family. It was never mentioned that he had access to the private Navy Golf Course in San Diego. Tiger Woods' childhood was closer to that of a “country club kid” than anything else.

Tiger Woods was never excluded from the golf community because of his race. Charlie Sifford and Pete Brown deserve credit as the pioneers for the PGA. Calvin Peete after them would appear on the 1983 and 1985 Ryder Cup teams and won the Vardon Trophy in 1984. These men were far more important in terms of opening up the game than Tiger Woods.

By the time he was ready to turn pro he was considered a better amateur than Jack Nicklaus. While true that Tiger topped Nicklaus by winning three straight U.S. Amateur Championships, people seemed to forget that Nicklaus nearly won the 1960 US Open as an amateur. Coincidentally, he was disinterested at that year's US Amateur.  He also played against older and more experienced players during that time period, such as Charlie Coe.  

Blame can be placed on a superstar culture which has taken over most sports media. Instead of trying to make honest comparisons, he was pumped up as the next superstar.

If you want to question this assessment of the media, look at what else was happening back then. Michael Jordan reigned supreme, starring in movies such as Space Jam that depicted him as a nice guy. Jordan is an immortal basketball player, but he wasn’t a nice guy. In 1998, fueled up on steroids and amphetamines, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased the single-season home run record. Their use of PEDs was not seriously looked into at the time.

Tiger Woods emerged from this being regarded as the best golfer ever. His 2008 US Open win was seen as the greatest display of guts ever on a golf course. He was a lock to break the record of 18 majors held by Jack Nicklaus. Also, he was a happily married family man with a pretty blonde wife, two children and an adorable dog.

He was anything but a family man, as we learned following his Thanksgiving car crash. It is utterly amazing that he was able to pull that façade for so long. Had anyone looked, it would have been easy to see what he really had been up to.

In terms of his golf career, a more honest portrayal would be cautious about his inevitable path to 19 majors. No one said anything about how Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson suddenly stopped winning majors in their mid 30s after they had dominated the sport.

No one brought up Ben Hogan’s display of courage in winning the 1950 US Open. Hogan was only a year removed from being told he would never walk again following a car accident. He had nearly no circulation in his legs due to arteries being tied because of concerns over blood clots. He had both legs tightly wrapped from groin to ankle to prevent swelling. Somehow this feat wasn’t even worthy of comparison to Tiger in 2008.

Ben Hogan again was slighted when Tiger was said to have dominated like no other. Hogan won all nine of his majors over seven years and 18 starts. The best Tiger ever did over 18 major starts was seven wins. The real argument at the time should have been if Woods had surpassed Hogan, not Nicklaus.

Again we can look at the media for elevating his status. When LeBron James joined the Miami Heat, the question was about him topping Michael Jordan. This was absolutely ridiculous for someone who had never won a championship. It took LeBron James forming a super team and acting like a child before the media turned against him. There were plenty of signs that he was a self-centered egomaniac before he took his talents to South Beach.

It took Tiger Woods crashing his car while being chased by his wife for the media to really see what he was as a person. His struggles since then have caused his career to be critiqued with far more scrutiny.

Tiger Woods continues to remain in this dishonest realm. He never gave a logical account of the car accident. Starting the 2010 season, he announced an indefinite break that ended up lasting until the Masters.

His swing change under Sean Foley has followed with similar vagueness. It was weeks of speculation before he even admitted a formal relationship. Tiger also has not been clear on why he is making such a drastic change to his swing.

The 2011 season has seen Tiger continue to be unclear and dishonest. He has not played since withdrawing after nine holes at the Players Championship, claiming that he hurt his knee and Achilles during the Masters third round. I find it hard to believe that he suffered an injury that has kept him out for three months the day before he shot a final-round 67 at Augusta.

Tiger Woods is no longer perceived the way that he wishes to be, both by the public and himself. His inability to cope with this is the main cause of his poor play. I do think he has a knee that probably won’t be 100 percent again, but mental factors exasperate this.

He received treatment in the media that was the polar opposite of what he was used to. Instead of being lauded, he was having a girlfriend revealed almost every day.

He has decided to dramatically alter his swing because he can’t quite replicate his 2008 form under Hank Haney. It is true that he has altered his swing previously, but the change is much more drastic with Foley.   

He speaks of wanting to “own” his swing the way Ben Hogan did. However, when Hogan was not able to replicate his swing following the car accident, he made tweaks to compensate. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that he couldn’t rotate as well.  

Woods is bothered by his knee in a mental way. He would be better off slightly altering his form to compensate. Instead he switches to a new swing that is worse, but that he believes he can perfect.

Tiger’s mental strength came from being a perfectionist. Regardless of skill level, it was illogical for a 20-year-old to believe he was going to win 19 Majors. It made no sense to dump Butch Harmon as a swing coach. His feeling of invincibility gave him supreme confidence over crucial putts.

It was necessary to hide his promiscuity due to perfectionism. In fact, he went the opposite way and got married as a 28-year-old. Clearly, he was dishonest or incapable of being honest with himself in this decision. He met Elin Nordegren three years prior; it wasn’t a rushed decision. The fact that he turned his off-course life into a lie is where his perfectionism really harmed him.  

Hogan was a perfectionist and quiet about his private life as well. He did this because he was shy, an introvert and didn’t see the point of having to explain himself. Woods was hiding skeletons in his closet.

Tiger Woods needs to make a change in mentality in order to move forward. Perfection is not possible, but maximum effort always is. Jack Nicklaus finished second or third in a major 27 times in addition to his 18 wins. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Woods has followed the last two Masters with abysmal performances.

He can start by being more honest with his health and golf game to the public. If he physically can’t hit golf balls, he must have a significant diagnosed injury. Yet all we hear is that he has a sore knee and Achilles tendon with no timetable for his return.  

Tiger Woods spent over a decade creating a phony persona. He spent five years living a double life. He was convinced of his greatness before he could buy a drink. The media enabled him to do this as they wanted a superstar. He didn’t face tough questions and got away with his blatant behavior.

His accomplishments are great. They are not though unquestionably the greatest. He never learned how to lose, never was humbled. He never had to question himself until he was 33. Perhaps he had gone too far by then.