When Elin Nordegren broke her silence Wednesday, she said she never hit Tiger Woods on the night of his infamous fender bender/mind bender. “The speculation that I would have used a golf club to hit him is just truly ridiculous,” she said.
Of course, that raises more questions than it answers: What would she have used? A baseball bat? Tire iron? Diamond-encrusted walking stick? Claret jug?
Elin also said she has “not watched one minute of golf.” On that point, she has a lot of company, because as soon as Tiger’s game went down a ravine, so did TV ratings.
But perhaps there is a ray of sunshine here. Maybe, as Elin moves on with her life, Tiger can, too. Maybe the timing of this divorce will enable Tiger to get back to being Tiger again.
And no, I don’t mean collecting women. I mean collecting real trophies.
The parting is sad, but most of the shock has long passed. The paperwork is done. The questions from the media have slowed to a trickle. The mistresses have exhausted their 15 minutes.
What we’re left with is golf.
The divorce announcement came not long after the final major of 2010, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, in which Tiger finished tied for 28th. It’s hard to imagine a more miserable summer for a man who has 14 majors and has hopes of catching Jack Nicklaus.
The low point — golf-wise — came at the Bridgestone Invitational in early August, when he shot a final-round 77 and finished the tournament at 18-over par. His 78th-place finish was the worst of his career in tournaments in which he played all four rounds.
On top of that, Woods had to endure speculation as to whether he’d be invited to play on the Ryder Cup squad. That’s like Peyton Manning being kept in the dark about his Pro Bowl chances.
The divorce announcement arrives at an ideal time, if there is such a thing when it comes to massive upheaval in one’s personal life on a public stage. When Tiger goes 0-for-4 in majors, it’s a lost year. Time to focus on 2011.
Everybody who has been through a divorce surely has a different formula for dealing with it. But the most common prescription for all of them is time. The mind needs to be cleared. The stress has to dissipate. The pieces need to be picked up, whichever ones aren’t completely shattered.
If the guy has been kicking himself over his behavior, he is probably done with that now. There will still be regrets, but the most intense period of self-flagellation is probably over.
As far as golf, Woods probably has tinkered, studied, pondered, wondered and agonized over his game. The problem is between the ears, and specifically in the area that governs peace of mind. The personal life and the golf game are inseparable, no matter how good Tiger may be at compartmentalizing.
But now there will be a handful of events left on the PGA Tour, plus the Ryder Cup in October, and Silly Season events. Then comes the short winter before 2011 tournaments begin again in Hawaii and California in January.
Really, what Tiger will focus on is the Masters in April. That means he’ll have roughly seven months to get his act together.
Seven months of working with new swing coaches. Seven months of putting practice. Seven months of shoving most of his marketing efforts aside to work on the game that brought him millions in the first place.
Seven months to adapt to a child custody routine. Seven months to allow civility to develop between he and Elin, if it hasn’t already.
And perhaps most important of all from a competitive golf standpoint, Tiger will have seven months to reflect upon how mediocre he has become.
Middle-of-the-pack golfers are a tranquil lot, because they’ve accepted their place in the game. They know they’re never going to be mentioned in the same breath with Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and yes, Tiger Woods. They’re giddy just to get free gear from club and shoe companies, and to make a comfortable living.
That’s hell for Tiger. He would rather be made to crawl across St. Andrews in a clown suit than accept anything less than greatness. Part of the reason has to do with the drive instilled in him by his late father. But part of it is that he has experienced the pinnacle — many times. He can’t go backward.
Woods has 71 victories on the PGA Tour. He has 14 majors. Yet he is currently 112th on the PGA Tour’s points list; Bob Estes is just above him, Cameron Beckman just below. How did he find himself in that threesome?
It’s not healthy for Tiger to wallow in his own personal torment. But if the reality of his professional slide should eat away at him, that’s probably for the best. He needs to summon that steely Tiger resolve. He has to look at himself in the mirror, see a hacker (relatively speaking, of course), and get mad about it.
Two people are involved in a divorce. Therefore, half of that situation is out of his control. Even if he had wanted to repair the marriage, it would only have happened if Elin agreed. And she didn’t. I’m sure Tiger gets that.
But there is only one person involved in an historic golf career. Going through a public pillorying at the same time you’re stinking up just about every course you step onto is brutal. Yet if most of the pain ends in late August, at least it creates some space to prepare for a fresh start.
It’s the perfect time to move on, especially if you still have aspirations to be the greatest ever.