From 1997 to 2008, Tiger Woods won 14 major titles. It had never been done before, atleast not in such a short span of time. He was only 4 away from Jack Nicklaus’s record haul of 18. On current form, that only seemed like a few years away- and he’d still have a good decade of golf left at top level. Things were always looking up, and he had held the top ranking for a greater part of a decade. Why, he was declared PGA player of the year (by fellow golfers, no less) nine times already. And he was only 33. His friendly rivalry with another great Roger Federer began to make headlines- and they were competing with eachother for Major titles by then.
While Roger Federer outlasted his period at the top by a good 4 years, and was brought back down to mortal status by a rampaging Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods- the person- was officially declared dead in November 2009. We all know what happened, and it seems pointless to revisit his flawed, ten-timing ways yet again. So let’s just say that one half of his life fell apart, and all he had was professional Golf- the sport that had catapulted him to the very pinnacle- a status that ironically deluded his private life.
Numbers are hard to ignore. Shane Warne has gone through his fairshare of battles off the field, but he was never beaten on the field. That could be put down to the fact that cricket is largely a team game, and a couple of failures are always disguised by the relentlessness of the brutal Aussie team a decade ago. After the world of Tiger Woods was exposed to the world in 2009, he returned to Golf- much to the relief of the entire PGA tour- in April 2010. After a couple of promising fourth places in the first two majors of the year, Tiger Woods decided that his aura had run its course. When we watched the larger-than-life figure of a strong, young Golfer sashay down the greens at a course in his trademark Sunday-reds, it didn’t feel like we were watching invincibility at its peak anymore. We didn’t feel like we were watching a Warrior, not unlike Achilles, swirl his club- already calculating the wind speeds and choice of putters. His walk felt hollow, and he looked like a man desperately in battle- not with the other 120-odd golfers at the event, but with his own inner demons.
Why, you would ask, would the greatest sporting icon of a generation forfeit his masterful game in favour of penance, healing and regret? Why would his game be affected for such a long period of time? For professional sportsmen at the top of their game, it isn’t such a simple question. One wouldn’t have expected to watch Roger Federer reach dizzying levels of success if he didn’t look up after every set to see the calming figure of girlfriend (now wife) Mirka in the player’s box. One wouldn’t expect Sachin Tendulkar to knock off every recordbook without the stellar presence of Mrs. Tendulkar back in Mumbai constantly holding fort, for her excited little athlete husband. People like Shane Warne crave chaos, and it spurs them on- much like it did, the Joker- and hence, you’d be hard-pressed to find another Warne in World Sports.
Tiger Woods built an entire empire around his ‘stable family life’- the great American dream, they call it. One mistake, or 15 in his case, and his empire crumbles in a devastating domino-effect manner. His game was always part of that empire. His cockiness, arrogance and ruthlessness rose in parts from the knowledge of having a perfect wife back home, caring for his perfect little babies in a perfect big mansion. His swing, suspect putting abilities and long drives were all subject to his impenetrable mental state. Sooner or later, the bubble was to burst, and he made hay while the sun shone bright on him.
We may never see the great Tiger Woods again, and we may never see the era of World Domination ever again. Everyone loves an underdog, and every good performance by Woods will be cheered on- because he is now the fallen hero looking for a way out. He is a tortured legend, a flawed genius, looking for the right notes.
When Rachel was murdered in The Dark Knight, the Batman found himself increasingly mortal, and even made some heinous decisions that betrayed the foundation he built himself on. He played dirty, to beat his greatest rival, because deep inside- he was aware of the fact that the Joker was just an extension of his own self. The only difference- one worked for peace, and the other was an agent of chaos. They were mere alter-egos, working under different guises, with the same outlooks.
Tiger Woods has nobody but himself to defeat now- for he is ranked 58th in the world, down from 1st in a period of 12 painful months. He has not won a golf tournament since September 2009. He has not won a major since US Open 2008 (on one leg). He has lost most of his top sponsors, and has even incurred the wrath of now-ex-Caddie Steve Williams. He has taken the blame, and still faces the camera with a glint in his eye that says, ‘Sacrifice me, if it helps you get your mind off your own frustrated situations’. He is working on a new swing, he says, but that only delays the inevitable question: Will he ever compete again?
We can’t call this his fall from grace, because he has always and will always maintain a holy position in the hearts of every single Golf Enthusiast on the globe. We all want him back, but one is not sure if he wants to come back.
It could only be appropriate then, that his return to the US Open- the scene of his last major success- will coincide with the opening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Americans love fairytale stories, they love comebacks. But this is far from one- there is a much deeper meaning to this story- because this is a dark, twisted tale of a man chosen by God, trying to fight off his only worthy and greatest enemy.