The news was jarring enough. In the mid-morning of Memorial Day, details started to emerge about Tiger Woods and the latest dramatic bombshell in what has become a precipitous fall from grace. Woods was charged with driving under the influence near his South Florida home, a story which quickly became front-page headlines.
But then there was that photo — a police mugshot of one of the world’s most famous athletes, looking disheveled and glazed over.
For a man whose personal life has become a series of humiliations in varying degrees over the past decade, the photo offers tangible representation of that stark decline. Without it, the story remains layered, another public embarrassment.
There is no positive way to spin this story. No silver lining, no beneficial aftereffects that might spring from it.
Initial reactions toward the news — and perhaps just as importantly, the mugshot — can range the gamut of emotions. Anger for putting himself and others at risk of danger. Confusion as to why a multi-millionaire wouldn’t pay a few bucks to a car service in order to avoid this situation. Shock in regard to a man who has already so dearly paid the price for past personal scandal allowing further transgressions to affect him once again.
But the main takeaway here is sadness. Just pure sadness.
Look at those sunken eyes in that mugshot and we no longer see the mercurial golfer who once seemed so invincible inside the ropes. There was often debate during his prime that Woods intimidated his opponents. He wasn’t just better than them, the argument stated, he was also tougher. Well, it’s difficult to beat a guy who holds not just a physical and technical advantage over the field, but a mental one, as well.
This, though, is Woods at his most vulnerable. It is an image he never wanted to portray to anyone, let alone the entire gawking world. And it’s a sad one, the very portrait of a man who has made mistakes.
Even those who might have cheered against Woods when he was in his prime or wished for other golfers to knock him from the lofty perch in which he sat for so much of his career, might understand this emotion. It isn’t so much empathy as it is sorrow.
Woods’ previous major scandal was a barrage of infidelities which quickly morphed his name into a punchline for everyone, from late-night talk show hosts to any gaggle of guys at the local 19th hole. He admitted shame — and even if he didn’t, it was written all over his scorecards. This was back in the late months of 2009. The player so accustomed to winning on a regular basis immediately lost his game upon returning to competition.
He might insist he never watches the news or reads the stories, but it would be almost impossible to ignore all of it, which makes this latest indiscretion so surprising. (Neither Woods nor his representatives have yet to comment on the arrest.)
If the stories alone were the punchline back then, the mugshot photo will serve as the entire joke this time. But it’s not funny. It’s just sad.
He is a man so guarded that he named his yacht Privacy. Once again, he has suffered public embarrassment; once again, at his own culpability.
He once seemed like he had everything. A million-watt smile, a swing that would make Bobby Jones jealous, and all the money he could ever need.
Now he has another humiliation that will haunt him, and a mugshot that will forever tell that story.