Sex, TIGER lies... and how snarling lost his bite
jim white BIOGRAPHY
Tiger Woods Jeff Benedict & Armen Keteyian Simon & Schuster £20
Porn stars, lingerie models, party girls, high-priced escorts and pancake-house waitresses: never mind Masters, Opens and Majors, it is those accumulated trophies listed in this scathing new biography that may well ultimately come to define Tiger Woods.
At the time of his vertiginous fall from grace in 2009, Woods was the wealthiest sportsman in the world, slipping more than $100 million a year into his expensively sponsored trousers, money gleefully offered up by corporate backers anxious to attach their brand to his carefully honed image of integrity, honesty and wholesomeness. That support collapsed overnight when it became all too clear he was none of those things.
In fact, this meticulous, dogged, thorough re-examination of his life suggests there was more to Woods than met the eye. He was not just a serial philanderer, sex addict and liar. He was also – as any of those obliged over a decade of his ascendancy to share the locker room with his shrill, ugly unpleasantness will confirm – a horrible human being. Spoiled, entitled,
utterly self-obsessed, at his peak he expressed all the grace, consideration and charm of a great white shark with toothache. Take his boorish behaviour towards Bill Clinton. The former President, the authors reveal, had agreed to open a new centre for Woods’s charitable foundation in 2007, his only requirement that the two share 18 holes. When they played, Woods sat all day in his golf cart on his phone, refusing to engage with his partner, except to make occasionally mocking remarks about the Clinton swing. Or what about when Glenn Frey, the Eagles’ frontman, died? Frey – who Woods boasted was a close friend – had raised millions over the years for Woods’s charity, appearing many times at functions and benefits. But when he died, never mind attending his funeral, our subject couldn’t even be bothered to send a note of condolence to Frey’s family. There are many more anecdotes in this pacey, unyielding book that make you squirm as you read them. And yet, for all his unpleasantness, for all the damage wrought on his personality by his ferociously driven upbringing, there is one thing Woods is not: stupid. But still he jeopardised everything – his marriage, his status, his legacy – with the most absurdly risky behaviour. Not just the sex (he made out with a hooker in the hospital car park while his wife was in labour) but the obsessive manner in which he engaged with the US Navy Seals, damaging his back in increasingly extravagant secret parachute jumps. Benedict and Keteyian’s intriguing conclusion is that he needed the impetus of his double life to stimulate his golf. His game was at its best when he had the most to hide. It is an intriguing conclusion. But it offers a logical explanation as to why, following his comeback after therapy and surgery, when he appreciated at last how vile he had been to those close to him, his performances have been so mediocre. The self-deprecating shrug he gave when fading during the 2018 Masters was indicative: the more human he becomes, the less effective Tiger Woods is as a golfer.
Tiger Woods celebrates after making a birdie during the US Open, 2008. Right, from top: with his parents in 1992; with former girlfriend Lindsey Vonn in 2013