AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s a question we’ve all been asking since he wrecked his Escalade and his life that Thanksgiving night 30 months ago.
Who really is Tiger Woods? Part of the answer came in a foul-mouthed, club-kicking back nine Friday at the Masters that would have resulted in you or me being thrown off much lesser golf courses than Augusta National.
Pretty simple, actually. He’s an embarrassment to his sport.
If Billy Payne was watching, he had to be horrified. The Masters chairman who famously chastised Woods two years ago for conduct unbecoming a role model would have seen conduct unfit for the back nine of a local muni.
Amid the staid confines of golf’s most hallowed grounds, Woods acted like a petulant teenager who wasn’t getting his way. He cursed wayward shots, hung his head after missed putts, took mock swings in anger. To top things off, he kicked his 9-iron about 15 yards on the 16th teebox after badly missing yet another shot.
About the only thing he didn’t do was grab his bag from his caddie and toss it into the nearby pond.
“I think we can safely say Tiger has lost his game … and his mind,” CBS analyst Nick Faldo said on air.
The player who vowed to honor and respect the game when he came back from the sex scandal that derailed his career and ruined his marriage did just the opposite.
Asked afterward how he felt, he could only offer this:
“I feel hungry.”
Woods will be around for the weekend because the 75 he shot was still good enough to make the cut. He’s eight shots back of the lead and will have an early tee time today with defending champion Charl Schwartzel, who might want to bring along a helmet in case the clubs start flying again.
That Woods is still fighting the demons that have gotten into his game — and perhaps his life — is evident. He’s obviously frustrated at being where he is in a tournament he expected to be competitive in after winning two weeks ago at Bay Hill, and is coming to the unsettling realization that the swing changes he’s made don’t always work under pressure.
But he’s the greatest player of his era, and a role model in the sport. He has a responsibility to behave, yet he can’t seem to control how he behaves.
He embarrassed himself, and he embarrassed the sport.