Those who weren’t around to witness Tiger Woods in his heyday might wonder why do people still care what happens to a 42 (43 in December) year-old golfer coming off multiple back operations who hasn’t won a major tournament since 2008, and hasn’t won anything at all since 2013. But when Woods surged in both the British Open and PGA Tournaments during the late rounds, ratings went through the roof. The final round of this year’s PGA, where he shot a 64, his best final score ever in a major, enjoyed an audience surge of 69 percent over last year’s telecast. The British Open, where he roared into the lead on the final day before fading, also had a 60 percent audience jump on the final day.
Still, there are plenty of young golfers on the tour, as well as fans, who really didn’t see and therefore don’t fully understand what the Tiger magic was in its heyday, nor why so many people continue to hope for its return. But those folks and anyone else who wasn’t around or doesn’t fully remember those days should read the exhaustive new biography “Tiger Woods” (Simon & Schuster), co-written by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian. Both men are famed investigative reporters, and their previous book was an exhaustive look at the often corrupt world of big time college football.
They spent more than three years compiling “Tiger Woods,” interviewing hundreds of people in the process. The results are extremely informative, sometimes shocking, and depending on one’s perspective, disappointing, predictable, overly obsessed with scandal, or the most thorough work done thus far on arguably the most talented golfer ever. “Tiger Woods” manages to be ideal for both the obsessive golf fan and those who couldn’t care less about the sport, or wouldn’t know a putter from a driver.
Benedict and Keteyian describe in detailed fashion the things that made Woods’ so great from an early age. There’s everything from swing breakdowns and on-course strategy to interviews and observations from caddies and swing coaches, plus insights from past and present agents and managers. So those only concerned with sports information get plenty of that.
But the more important elements for many others will be the extensive look into his background, the impact of his father and mother on his maturation and development, and the controversial aspects of both his life and his father’s. Though far from a sordid work, the authors don’t sugarcoat or overlook the infidelity or misdeeds of either Woods’ father Earl or Tiger himself. They’re not condemning so much as reporting, though it’s clear there are times and instances where they aren’t impressed with his behavior or his treatment of others.
They also reveal his single-minded approach to life, something they credit as being a primary reason he became so great, but also the main cause for his fall. Tiger Woods was brought up to view himself as being so dedicated to being a champion everything else didn’t matter. Such things as personal courtesy, recognition of dates and events important to those around him, satisfying or remembering obligations that didn’t necessarily lead to more championship opportunities were all considered secondary or unimportant.
Tiger Woods did so much in a relatively short period of time (roughly 1997-2013) that when you go back and recall some of his exploits it can be mind boggling. He held the career Grand slam before the age of 25. He remains the only golfer in history with multiple streaks of six consecutive tournaments won over PGA seasons. He won the US Amateur title multiple times before dropping out of Stanford. At one point he simultaneously held all four major titles. Woods also holds the record for most consecutive months atop the world golf rankings, and won Player of the Year eleven times.
It’s the most extreme long shot that the Tiger Woods of old will return. Many doubt he will win another major, and would just be happy if he won a tournament anywhere. But after reading “Tiger Woods,” it’s easy to marvel at his accomplishments, yet also acknowledge his flaws and what the decision to emphasize golf over humanity cost him.
This article originally appeared in the Tennessee Tribune.