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Tiger Woods and the Double-Edged Sword of Ego

Patrick HarrelCorrespondent IISeptember 6, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, GA - AUGUST 12:  Tiger Woods watches a shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club on August 12, 2011 in Johns Creek, Georgia.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Kobe cheated. Jordan gambled. Tiger did both.

There are two major common denominators here: all three were elite athletes, and all three engaged in self-destructive behaviors.

As an elite athlete, these men had their egos built up every moment of the day. From the praise and adoration from the fans after a game winning shot to the huge checks their sponsors cut them, everything in the world told these athletes that they are the best. That they are better than other people. After years of this sycophancy, that praise went to their heads.

Take Tiger Woods. For years, Tiger could do whatever he wanted to on the golf course. He hit shots people thought impossible, made putts every time he needed to and transformed the game of golf. He was married to an exceptionally beautiful woman and was the envy of every man on this earth.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Tiger Woods, the family man and role model, had cheated on his wife with over a dozen partners, women ranging from porn stars to cocktail waitresses.
But why? Why did Tiger do it when he knew that one day his cheating would catch up with him and he’d find a nine-iron stuck in the back window of his Escalade?

Ego.

It’s a cliché to say that Tiger’s successes made him think that he was bulletproof, but it’s true. As Tiger searched off the course for the rush that golf brought him on the course, he found that sex and gambling did the trick pretty effectively. No longer was his gorgeous wife enough for him, he had to find something exciting and dangerous to capture the excitement that a huge putt brought him.

Unlike the average Joe who pees on his neighbor’s yard or goes on a roller coaster when he needs a rush, Tiger looked for something bigger. For an egomaniac like Tiger Woods, these ordinary thrills do little for him. Instead, he found sex with mistresses to be the best substitute. Not only did the forbidden nature of these relationships add excitement to every sexual encounter, but the women’s stroking of his ego undoubtedly played into the appeal for Tiger.

However, it is this same ego that made Tiger the best golfer in the world and possibly the best golfer of his generation. In a game so dominated by the mind, his ability to believe that he could make any shot at any time defined him as a player. Some people wonder how Tiger can make huge putt after huge putt, but his makeup made even the toughest of shots easy (incredible athletic ability plays a part as well).

And now, as Tiger is enduring one of the biggest struggles of his career after a long time away from golf, some of his failures can be traced to the crumbling of his ego. No longer does he appear to own the golf course the second he steps on the property, his once-quick wit has faded and he simply appears to be going through the motions. He shows flashes of the same swagger that made him the best, but the consistent badassery that defined him is gone.

If he wants to reach the top of the world again, he needs to bring out the cockiness and let everyone know that they’re playing for second.

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