The PGA Tour season resumes today in Texas. Tiger Woods isn’t in the field at Colonial but soon he’ll be playing again, aiming for a record 83rd PGA Tour victory, thus taking him past the mark he presently shares with Sam Snead. Few would bet against him managing that after all he has achieved.
Last Friday, the Sky Documentaries channel aired for the first time Tiger Woods: Back. It wasn’t so much about the medical problems relating to that part of his body, although the opening montage was very much about the various injuries and withdrawals he has been forced to endure over the past decade. A middle section of the programme (which weighs in at 138 minutes in total) also considered his health issues. For the most part, though, the focus was on the Masters, where Woods won his first major in 1997 aged 21, having only turned pro the previous August; where he completed the ‘Tiger Slam’ of holding all four majors at the same time in 2001; where he holed that famous Nike-ad chip-in on the 16th in 2005; and where he so sensationally won again last year after an 11-year major drought. Having won all 14 majors in which he had held the 54-hole lead until he didn’t win the 2009 USPGA Championship, at Augusta two Aprils ago he won his first major by coming from behind on Sunday.
I think Nick German’s documentary is excellent in parts, if rather too long, with many flashbacks interspersed with arguably too much footage of the 2019 tournament. Granted the back nine last time at Augusta was dramatic, but now we all know what happened. The edge has, inevitably, been lost. On the other hand, Nick Faldo, who played with Woods in the first round in 1997 and so had a ringside view as he followed an outward nine of 40 with an inward one of 30, offers some genuine insights. Similarly Tiger’s former coach, Butch Harmon.
It is also fascinating to revisit the fact that in May 2017 Woods was arrested for driving a car while in no fit state to do so. Within 15 months he had gone from a prison cell to nearly winning two majors, the 2018 Open and USPGA. He laughs after the latter that if he’d been told “I’d have the chance to win the last two major championships [of the year, then] with what swing? I hadn’t played in two years”. Replaying his mea culpa after the disgrace of the roll call of call girls – “I am deeply sorry” – one was reminded of how effective contrition can be and left wondering why so few politicians can ever bring themselves to express remorse.
This isn’t end of the trail of Tiger docco-dramas. HBO has a series based on the Jeff Benedict/Armen Keteyian biography Tiger Woods scheduled for a November release. If that is as faithful to the original text as Woods was unfaithful to his wife then I would suggest he will not enjoy it as much this one. Woods has also reiterated that he is working on his “definitive” autobiography, but we’ll see about that. As Nick Paumgarten’s review of the 2019 Masters for The New Yorker noted, while Rachel Uchitel, Joslyn James and similar actors in Tiger’s life were thoroughly referenced in the Benedict/Keteyian book, Woods might not feel inclined to give them due acknowledgement in the ‘official’ version of his story. That 83rd win, though? I think so.
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