Divorced Woods should focus on golf game

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports

Less than six years after tying the knot and nine months after an early morning, single-car accident led to a nearly unprecedented wave of scandalous stories of infidelity, Tiger and Elin Woods officially divorced.

The two will share parenting responsibilities for their two children, a 3-year-old daughter and a 19-month-old son.

No terms were released. Elin likely will receive a nine-figure sum, although probably less than the eye-popping $750 million that some reports predicted. In exchange, she almost certainly has agreed to a non-disclosure clause that prohibits comments, interviews, books and any other detailing of Tiger’s personal life.

For Tiger, 34, maintaining some strength to his brand for future endorsement and business opportunities would be a premium worth paying. An Elin Woods’ tell-all book and subsequent media tour would be devastating to whatever is left of Tiger’s goodwill.

But don’t think Elin, 30, left quietly. She didn’t just ask for her maiden name – Elin Maria Pernill Nordegren – to be restored.

She employed six different attorneys from three different cities on two continents: McGuireWoods attorneys Richard Cullen and Dennis I. Belcher in Richmond, Va., Scott S. Cairns in Jacksonville, Fla., and Walter H. White Jr. and Josefin Lonnborg in London, who were assisted by Rebecca Palmer of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A.

Tiger, meanwhile, hired two separate law firms – one in Florida, one in Connecticut.

That’s a lot of legal mouths in need of fees to feed.

Now, perhaps, with the trauma of attempted reconciliation and then the details of divorce finished, Tiger can return to championship form on the golf course and turn around his spiraling game. He hasn’t won a single tournament on the PGA Tour in 2010, the worst drought of his career. He went 0 for 4 in majors and hasn’t won one in eight attempts since he underwent knee surgery in the summer of 2008.

While the sensational details of his infidelities were fodder for the public, in the end Woods is a golfer. The sooner he is allowed to turn the focus onto his game, the better – at least if he begins winning again.

The couple filed for divorce in Bay County Circuit Court in Panama City, Fla., far from their Orlando area home that became famous after Tiger slammed his Cadillac into a fire hydrant only to have Elin smash both back windows with a golf club supposedly in an effort to free him.

Since then a parade of trashy affairs involving Tiger emerged, with girlfriends scattered from VIP rooms, cocktail lounges and pancake houses across the country. He twice went to in-patient therapy in an effort to save the nuptials. He staged an awkward, apologetic news conference, starred in a tacky, lecturing Nike commercial with the voice of his dead father and tried to shake off heckling airplane taunts and endless late-night comic fodder.

None of it was good enough to maintain the marriage that, to most outsiders, seemed impossible to fix.

“We are sad that our marriage is over and we wish each other the very best for the future,” Tiger and Elin said in a joint statement. “While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness has been, and will always be, of paramount importance to both of us.

[Photos: See images of Tiger and Elin together]

“Once we came to the decision that our marriage was at an end, the primary focus of our amicable discussions has been to ensure their future well-being. The weeks and months ahead will not be easy for them as we adjust to a new family situation, which is why our privacy must be a principal concern.”

Elin has not spoken since the accident – which came the day after the National Enquirer published a story detailing Tiger’s cheating ways.

Tiger has refused to discuss the specifics of the situation but has acknowledged the distractions have made concentrating on his sagging golf game a challenge. He's looked uncomfortable and unconfident on the course.

“It’s been a long year,” Tiger kept repeating after finishing a career-worst 18-over par at a tournament in Akron, Ohio, earlier this month. The year has been so "long," he said, the poor play didn’t even surprise him.

Whether the divorce changes anything remains to be seen. The pain and guilt may remain, and the challenge of joint parenting doesn’t immediately ease. The two signed the divorce agreement in early July, as Woods was failing to break par at the AT&T National in Pennsylvania.

His game hasn’t improved since then.

That said, from the perspective of his golf game, Tiger clearly needs to turn the page. His putting, once the strength of his game, has deteriorated badly – perhaps the sign of a lack of concentration and playing time. He’s been sporadic off the tee and has been prone to rough stretches of play.

Suddenly Woods’ chances of breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championships (Tiger has 14), once a sure-bet, have dimmed considerably. His ability to intimidate other golfers has dissipated too. Teenage star Rory McIlroy mockingly begged the U.S. Ryder Cup team to invite Tiger.

“I would love to face him,” McIlroy said. “Unless [Woods’] game rapidly improves in the next month or so, I think anyone in the European team would fancy his chances against him.”

No one said that a year ago. And perhaps no one will again. Either way, the next step for Tiger Woods is complete. His reputation is shot, his game has followed. At least now whatever energy and emotion he was spending on attempting to retroactively save his family won’t be needed.

The Woodses' marriage is over. What’s left of Tiger is anyone’s guess.

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