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