So imagine Elin Woods sitting at home watching the aftermath of the Masters. Tiger hasn’t phoned home yet (or texted, I would imagine!), so his interview with Pete Kostis on TV is her only indication of how he’s feeling. “I finished 4th,” is Tiger’s abrupt opening answer and he continues to coldly avoid anything close to an emotional response. No thanks to his family for helping him return; no crack in his self-made armour of steel; just more over-rehearsed nonsense. Yes, it was difficult for him to face his peers and the press this week and, yes, he smiled a bit more on the course and doffed his hat, but that seems to be more part of newly-learned therapy behaviour. The real Tiger talked to Kostis. The real Tiger is drained of feelings so that he is still a golfing machine. And that’s great, if that’s your choice in life.
Contrast what Elin got from her man with what Amy Mickelson received from her winning husband Phil. Now, of course, ‘Lefty’ won so he’s bound to be feeling better than anyone else around, but the tear that the TV cameras caught running down his cheek as he hugged his wife at the back of the 18th green – that was the shot of the week in some ways.
Having said that, you need to know that Phil is not the players’ favourite with everyone (in the locker-room, Phil is a little bit too arrogant and self-centred for many of his counterparts), but at least he’s real. His smiles and his nods to the crowd burst out of him – he’d high-five all the Augusta patrons if you gave him a chance. And he cries with his wife when he sees her. OK, so you’re saying: “Tiger cried when his dad died.” Well, I would acknowledge that and I would say as well that there have been tears on other occasions for Mr Woods after a golf event.
But I just think that Elin Woods – at some stage during the week – deserved to see her husband publicly acknowledge that she existed. The fact that Tiger erased her from his public mind might tell us more about his situation than anything else – I don’t think Elin wanted him at the Masters; I don’t think she trusted him to leave the house; and I don’t think Tiger has learned anything – yet – from all this self-inflicted drama. He hasn’t even learned when to say “No” to a sponsor (what was he thinking to have his dead father’s voiceover on the Nike ad?).
Will Tiger win more Majors? Of course he will because he’s intent on continuing to be a golfing machine, not a loving husband and father despite what his perfectly-managed pre-Masters interviews tried to say.
His priority is golf, his priority is winning, his priority is himself. What was it Gandhi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I don’t believe Tiger has found himself yet; his world appears to still be about him and him alone. When Elin and the kids are at the back of the 18th green, that’s when Tiger will have recovered from his troubles; that’s when he might understand that all his efforts are worth so much more when dedicated to those that he loves. And it will be at that moment when the whole of the golf world will forgive him both as a man and as a golfer.
Ross Biddiscombe is the author of two books about journeyman golfers and the Q School. For more details, go to golfontheedge.co.uk