The Tiger Woods saga has yet to blow over. But who can say if it ever will? Prior to his life falling apart, Woods was a demigod of sports. He was the highest paid professional athlete in 2008. He has won over 71 Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour events, third of all time. He even managed to win 14 major championships, all before his 34th birthday, and is only four behind legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. Sports analysts were never in dispute about if Woods would be able to break the record for most major wins. They only contemplated when it would finally happen.
In 2008 Woods had a fair amount of press coverage but it had nothing to do with his personal life. Remarkably, Woods was revered for his ability to keep his personal life somehow private despite being one of the most popular athletes ever.
Woods had injured himself in 2008 and was forced to cut his season short. He came back in 2009 and struggled. Many people still believed his talent would win out and the Nicklaus record would be broken. As it turns out, Woods’ career may ultimately fail, not because of his lack of ability or talent, but because of his off-the-field behavior.
It was only a couple days before the incident that Woods was down on the field for the 112th Big Game at Stanford Stadium. He was named honorary captain for the game and was inducted into the Stanford Athletics’ Hall of Fame at half time. The crowd was in awe of being able to see a legend from their own school on the field, an athlete with accomplishments practically unparalleled across sports. After his induction, Woods said to the crowd, “The second half is ours!” and the audience went wild with his words.
Ironically, as Stanford students returned home for their Thanksgiving break, a peculiar news story broke out about Woods having a car accident at 2:25 a.m. He had crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. The incident itself was extremely strange and sparked the interest of many as to what could have caused Woods to crash. Initial reports expressed concern about the state of his health, but that soon changed as the story took an unexpected turn.
Before the scandal of his multiple affairs became public knowledge, news concerning Woods was only about golf. He was evaluated for his play on the field and for little else. He was praised in victory and criticized in defeat. The complete turnaround of his public image is striking. Before 2009, it was extremely difficult to find anything scandalous about the life of Woods, which was kept so private for so many years. Now it is completely open for all to see.
During his professional career, Woods was almost universally liked. Companies took advantage of his popular image and used him for endorsements. Woods started endorsing products for General Motors, Titleist, General Mills, American Express, Accenture, and Nike only a short time after his 21st birthday. His image was seen as a gold mine of revenue. Woods has his own logo, shirts, hats, and even a brand of Gatorade. Golf ratings relied on Woods’ being in the tournament. Without him, people just were not as interested in the sport. It is almost hard to imagine just how huge Tiger Woods was and still is.
It was reported that Woods’ wife came at him with his own 9-iron, attacking him after finding out about an alleged affair with a woman named Rachel Uchital. But as if one affair was not enough, other women then came forward to report having affairs with Woods. It seems that every week, at least one more woman claims to have had relations with Woods. The current list is at eleven women, including Playboy playmates, cocktail waitresses, and porn stars.
The stories concerning Woods have become completely sensationalist and it is getting harder and harder to sort out the truth about may have actually happened. Some claims are over the top, others completely absurd, and several probably true. But what is true has become less and less relevant as the public has realized that Woods indeed had the capacity for widespread adultery, which is unacceptable in itself.
Woods may one day return to golf but he will not be the same person he once was. His image was forever changed when he crashed that fateful night. He has lost most of his endorsements and almost all his popularity. He may not be able to dominate golf when he returns and the majors record may indeed be safe from Woods previous onslaught. But regardless of what happens, Woods’ career will always be marred by his unrestrained behavior. His legacy will never be the same.