Tiger just try­ing to get out of rough

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - GE­ORGE DIAZ

Tiger Woods shock­ingly missed the cut when the Un­de­feated re­leased a list of the Top 50 black ath­letes of all-time last week.

Talk­ing heads pre­dictably ex­ploded, with Michael Wil­bon and Shan­non Sharpe tak­ing up for Tiger, and Stephen A. Smith kick­ing him to the curb be­cause Tiger never em­braced his “black­ness.”

What­ever color he may be, Tiger de­serves to be on that list. But we will put the so­ci­o­log­i­cal round­table on pause for a sec­ond to get to an­other point about Tiger Woods and his iden­tity cri­sis. He is no longer El Ti­gre, the dom­i­nant force on the tee box, Wheaties cov­ers and Nike com­mer­cials.

He’s an or­di­nary cat, just like us. Wit­ness the scene at a Palm Beach County court­house on Wed­nes­day, when Tiger, through his at­tor­ney, agreed to plead guilty to reck­less driv­ing. A hear­ing is sched­uled Oct. 25, when Woods is ex­pected to en­ter a pro­gram for first-time DUI of­fend­ers, fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent that led to his ar­rest in Florida on Me­mo­rial Day on sus­pi­cion of driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence. Life can be a buz­zkill some­times.

At 41, Tiger is on the down­side of celebrity and ath­letic fame. It hap­pens to all stars whose tal­ents and skills be­tray them with old age or in­jury. But Tiger’s nar­ra­tive is par­tic­u­larly cruel, and some of it self-in­flicted.

He blew up his mar­riage in 2009 af­ter cheat­ing on his wife and mother of two chil­dren, in­fa­mously with a wait­ress from Perkins, among oth­ers. He spent 45 days in a clinic, where he was treated for sex ad­dic­tion. His ca­reer then im­ploded with a back that gave out from all that torque on those mon­ster drives.

As con­tem­po­raries Phil Mick­el­son and Ernie Els cel­e­brated their 100th ca­reer start in a ma­jor at the PGA Cham­pi­onship on Thurs­day, Tiger was on the out­side look­ing in, no longer part of that ex­clu­sive golf com­mu­nity.

“This is golf for the next, you know, 10 years, maybe,” two-time U.S. Open win­ner Andy North said in June, ref­er­enc­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion of tour pros. “Will we see Tiger play? No one has any idea, par­tic­u­larly him.”

It’s not of­fi­cial of course, but the land of bro­ken down dreams some­times doesn’t come with an of­fi­cial ex­pi­ra­tion date, procla­ma­tion and cer­e­mo­nial good­byes.

It’s a slow fade.

Tiger hasn’t won a tour­na­ment in four years. Com­pet­ing isn’t enough. Does any­one think that Woods was happy fin­ish­ing 15th out of the 17- player field in the Hero Clas­sic in the Ba­hamas last De­cem­ber?

He’s played one event in 2017, the Omega Dubai Desert Clas­sic in Fe­bru­ary, when he shot a 77 (+5) and with­drew be­cause of back spasms.

The tran­si­tion for Tiger is to first ad­mit that he is, as Joe Walsh once fa­mously sang, an “or­di­nary av­er­age guy.”

That re­al­ity smacked him around a bit in that West Palm Beach court­room. Woods will be placed into a first-time DUI of­fender pro­gram that man­dates a 12-month pe­riod of un­su­per­vised pro­ba­tion. He will likely be sub­ject to ran­dom urine drug and al­co­hol screen­ings, and will have to reg­is­ter with the county’s DUI school that typ­i­cally re­quires classes on ad­dic­tion.

Woods is try­ing to get his af­fairs in or­der on and off the course. He con­tin­ues to put in the re­hab work on the chance that he can com­pete again. And just last month, he com­pleted an out­pa­tient treat­ment pro­gram tar­get­ing his pain med­i­ca­tions and sleep dis­or­der.

He re­cently posted a pic­ture on Twit­ter from the Ba­hamas, where he was free-div­ing with his kids. It was a nice, hu­man touch dur­ing a tough week.

The snub on the list was an­other gut punch, and a cheap shot.

“He should’ve been No. 1 be­cause he was the most dom­i­nant,” Sharpe said. “He had what they call the Tiger Slam. He had all four ma­jors, not in the cal­en­dar sea­son, but he had all four on his man­tle at one par­tic­u­lar time. Michael Jor­dan didn’t make lit­tle black boys pick up bas­ket­balls and go to the black top. Tiger made black men go get golf clubs.”

Tiger Woods changed the face of the game, lit­er­ally. The por­trait that sticks with us now is his re­cent mug shot, the one that re­veals he is just an or­di­nary av­er­age guy, try­ing to find his way out of the rough.

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