Let that pathetic mugshot of Tiger Woods be a reminder

Dan Wetzel

It’s a bad look in every definable way. A worn-out mugshot complete with drooped eyes, two-day stubble and the frazzled hair of a receding hairline.

Twenty years and two months ago, Tiger Woods burst into global superstardom with a billion-watt grin, clad in Sunday red, soon cloaked in Masters green. He was the fresh-faced future of sports and entertainment and marketing and business.

Now he’s 41 and a broken-down golfer, still rich and famous beyond belief, but clearly struggling to find a path in life.

Memorial Day brought that new iconic image for this old iconic athlete – a painful, sad expression out of Palm Beach County, where “Woods, Eldrick Tiger” was booked on suspicion of drunk driving. He was released Monday morning without bail, and later released a statement blaming the incident on an “unexpected reaction to prescribed medication.”

Tiger has hit bottom before and hopefully this one is the rock. There is nothing funny or entertaining about this one, no late-night comedian punch lines about rampant womanizing that wiped out his marriage and stripped the veneer of perfection off him nearly nine years ago.

Tiger Woods was booked by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Monday for DUI. (AP)
Tiger Woods was booked by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Monday for DUI. (AP)

This one is just bad all around – at best a horrible decision, at worst a cry for help for a guy dealing with physical and emotional pain, too young to be washed up, too old to be coping like this. He struggled with his personal humiliation when it came to extramarital affairs, taking the hit hard. This is another level.

That Woods has hundreds of millions of dollars is but a side note here. Sure, he can afford not just an Uber or a taxi or a limo or his own 24-hour-a-day personal chauffer. That doesn’t matter, though.

There is no excuse for a DUI, certainly not cash being tight. It’s not an economic decision. It’s a criminal one, born of stupidity and hubris and a lack of planning. If nothing else, let that pathetic photo of Tiger Woods be a reminder to all of us to avoid such a path. It’s an easy slide. It’s an easy avenue to regret.

Woods’ health is no longer just about the back he can’t seem to ever get well enough to swing a club the way he once did. He’s barely played since 2015, and even then he was a shell of his former self.

Tiger had fusion surgery this spring that he claims provided “instant relief.”

“I haven’t felt this good in years,” he wrote on his website.

It was a bold play to salvage his game and his well being, the benefits to the former still to be determined. Woods said recently he “can’t twist for another two and a half to three months.”

If he can’t twist, he can’t play. So he spends his days living in his $60 million mansion complete with 3.5-acre backyard golf course. He walks and does light exercise. He drives his two children to school. He’s seen at their sporting events. He has business interests, including ownership of a local bar, and course design work.

Right now that’s about it. It’s a far cry from the roars of the PGA Tour.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to wonder if a rudderless, too-much-time-on-his-hands Woods was at risk for too much booze, too much self-medicating. The guy used to be everywhere, doing everything. Now he waits to see if he can ever again do the one thing he always did better than anyone else.

This isn’t how golf usually works. Heroes age well. They play on, competitive into their 40s. The senior tour soon arrives to maintain their relevance. Major stars still knock out ceremonial tee shots or play celebrity pro-ams into their 70s. It’s the most graceful twilight in sports, which makes Tiger’s shooting star so difficult to accept.

If he’s ever getting back, he needs to heal up. If this is anything more than a one-time disaster of a decision, then he needs to seek the assistance available. He called making the choice to have the fusion procedure “exhausting” and eventually did it for quality-of-life reasons.

“That’s the most important thing … that I can have a life again with my kids,” Woods wrote on his website.

He needs to approach this the same way.

The kids, not the golf, not the fame, not the bottle, need to be his life. He knows this. He’s shown himself to be a doting dad in the past. He long ago admitted to being a flawed figure and a work in progress. He’s been knocked down almost as often as he’s climbed back up.

This one is serious. This one is the most serious. That mug shot represents a lucky man, someone who could have fared far, far worse. Time for Tiger to count his blessings and get to work on his life the way he once did his game.