Woods struggles with image despite domination during 2013 tour season

It is common knowledge that Tiger Woods seems to have fallen off of the radar lately. After being considered the “golden boy” of golf and the man who could do no wrong for the majority of his career, he suffered a tremendous fall in late 2009. As most people know , Woods’ personal troubles began when he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and some trees one cold November night. The problem only got worse when multiple women claimed to be having affairs with Tiger, and he later admitted to infidelity. Suddenly, it seemed as if all hell had broken loose. Tiger’s image was shattered and, as a result, the majority of his sponsors dropped him. Tiger Woods was no longer a hero and a prodigy but instead a sleazeball sex-addict. But that is old news. What’s going on with Tiger now?

Many people never truly had an interest in the very thing that made Tiger Woods famous in the first place—golf. Much of the fandom seemed to stretch from the simple idea of Tiger Woods himself. He was, in essence, the “god of the golf world.” It was a marketer’s dream that someone so young, marketable and charismatic also just so happened to be so good. Thus his image seemed to redefine the game and usher in an entirely new generation of fans. But when Tiger’s image took a nosedive, many “fans” wrote him off altogether. Yet one fact still remains: the man is phenomenal at golf.

As of today, Tiger Woods is the number one ranked golfer in the entire world. Not coincidentally, he also has five wins this season. Since 1980, only Vijay Singh and Nick Price have won at least five times during the course of a season and both men only did so once. Woods, on the other hand, began his professional career in 1996 and had already achieved this feat ten times. Tiger is also the favorite to win the Player of the Year Award, an honor he has already won ten times. Perhaps Woods’ biggest setback, however, is the fact that he has not won any major titles including The Masters Tournament since his return from scandal and injury in 2009.  Yet, the fact remains that Woods is still consistently one of the best golfers in the world right now.

Perhaps what once made Tiger Woods the most appealing figure in golf is now what works against him. During his golden era of publicity he was seen as a young, attractive wunderkind of sorts, juxtaposed against the older, more wrinkly men that usually populated the Professional Golfers’ Association. Now, however, he may be viewed as the younger, sly, selfish man trying hopelessly to regain his former glory and reputation at the top. The same goes for many athletes. What they do outside the game impacts how they are viewed while playing it. The tide can turn for or against an athlete based on what he or she does or says, whether it be respectful or demeaning. This year could, however, mark Woods’ symbolic return to greatness whether fans like him or not.

Tiger Woods has not won a Player of the Year award since 2009. Thus, he has not won a Player of the Year award since his divorce, since his scandals and injuries. Woods feels the pressure this year. He wants to be loved again, to reclaim the fame and likability that was once his. Yet perhaps his desperation has done more to hurt him than anything else. This year, Tiger Woods also has three rule violations.

The first came in Abu Dhabi where Tiger Woods decided to take a free drop in the sand…except a free drop was not allowed in the sand. Thus he was penalized two strokes and failed to make the next cut. Then, at the Masters, Tiger decided to take an improper drop on the 15th hole. The mistake was not discovered at first, yet in an interview afterward, Woods said that he purposely dropped the ball “a few paces” behind the original spot. THEN, at the BMW Championship, Tiger Woods decided to move a small branch that was blocking his golf ball. The ball then moved. Woods claimed the ball only “oscillated,” yet a PGA Tour videographer had captured the event and sent it in to the league. He or she stated that Tiger was in violation of a rule that prohibited moving the ball. Woods argued and discussed the matter with the league and wound up being penalized. In all honesty, this seems like an unlucky accident for Tiger Woods. Had this happened before his ugly divorce and fallout in 2009-2010, the public would undoubtedly have been on his side. Yet now, many probably see him as a sneaky cheat. Especially after what Woods did next. Instead of apologizing and sucking it up, Tiger went out to proclaim that golf should not be reviewed so tightly on television. The replay rule, according to Tiger, should not be followed so closely.

Shouldn’t every golfer play with integrity no matter who or what is watching? Tiger Woods is digging his own grave here. Had golf not punished Tiger, he would have been seen as someone who was babied by the league and given special treatment. Woods, especially now, does not want to be seen as someone who gets special treatment. The fundamental principle of golf, a phrase that most people know, is “play the ball as it lies.” Tiger Woods is in no position, especially now, to even attempt to do anything else.

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