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Where’s Tiger?

Joe Wirth | Thursday, December 2, 2010

When people looked ahead to the 2010 schedule and saw Augusta, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits, the speculation of a calendar year grand slam began. His performances in 2000 at Pebble and St. Andrews were as close as one can get to attaining perfection in golf. Tiger, himself, probably saw this as his best chance to win all four majors in the same year. His goals for this 2010 season were put on the shelf on the night of Thanksgiving 2009.

Last Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Tiger Woods’ infamous car crash. Since that night Woods’ personal life has spent more time in the tabloids than the Kardashians’. Prior to Thanksgiving 2009, Tiger Woods was one of the most liked, and certainly most famous, athletes in the world. This incident, and the revelations that came after, caused the most dramatic fall from grace of any athlete in recent memory. Prior to running his car over a neighbor’s fire hydrant, he was marketing gold. He was the face of Buick, Accenture, Tag Huer and Nike, among others. In the aftermath, Nike is the only sponsor that has stuck with him. In the past year we have witnessed him choreograph a half-hearted apology in front of a national television audience, a failed Nike commercial with his deceased father narrating the script and his loss of credibility in the eyes of the American public.

What made him so great was his mental strength. Golf can be the most unnerving sport, but he always kept his cool and seemed to be able to control the uncontrollable. He was able to do things with a golf ball that other professionals only dreamed about. The question was not if he would break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships, but when. This incident changed all of that. For the first time since turning professional, he went through a season without recording one victory. Some speculated life between the ropes would be his sanctuary, a place where he could find some sense of normalcy in his chaotic life. His return at the Masters this year was one of the most anticipated sporting events of 2010. There were some glimpses that he would return to form. He came in fourth in both the Masters and the U.S. Open. There were other times, however, that the only way you could tell that it was Tiger playing was by the swoosh on his hat. There was the manhood-robbing 18 over he shot at the Bridgestone Invitational and not qualifying for the final two events of the FedEx Cup.

In the past, he had his competition beat before they reached the first tee. Now, for the first time in his career, he seems mortal and more beatable than ever. The consensus among most golf experts is that he will return to form in the upcoming 2011 season. He is Tiger after all — if anybody can come back from those depths, it is he. With time and dedication he will put his professional life back together. The question is, is he willing to put in that same time and dedication to piece his personal life back together?

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Joe Wirth at jwirth@nd.edu