“Fair is foul, and foul is fair / Hover through the fog and filthy air.”
If you look hard at last week’s golf clips on youtube, you’ll see the Weird Sisters in the trees behind the gallery at Firestone, cackling as Tiger Woods self-destructed in Shakespearean fashion. Fairway shots flew foul; fate found the golfer whose every foul deed once landed fair – and there was Tiger, swinging in a fog, cursing the very air around him.
But what of it? Who can be as surprised as the talking heads on sports networks pretend to be as they foam about how maybe it’s better if Tiger takes the rest of the season off to “regroup” and “work on his head.” Which of us doesn’t in some way get what’s going on – especially if we’ve spent any time on the course ourselves, or the racquets court, or the slopes, the field, the rink, etc and so forth.
What’s going on is pressure: social pressure, moral pressure, mental pressure. The pressure to perform – and for Tiger, the pressure to act out the role of the penitent, doing his best to reform, taking the sex-addiction rehab classes, saying (some of) the right things. Who knows what he’s thinking or feeling – if he really feels sorry about anything other than the fact that the witches caught up with him and there he is hacking his way out of bunkers and ponds, winding up 18 over par. Who really knows?
So – the pressure. Even weekend warriors know that all it takes is a little this way, a little that way, to turn an average day into one of your classic games for the ages, or into a debacle that can’t end soon enough. If you’re out just five per cent – if your timing or your concentration or god help you, your fitness – if any of these things is out just a tad, you’re going to fail. If you’re playing a team sport like soccer, hockey, or rugby, you can work a little harder to counter your hands of stone, feet of clay, your propensity to mess up whenever skill is required. A little more effort goes some way toward mitigating this kind of misery. But if you’re a golfer, well then – you might as well head for the clubhouse, yes? No amount of exertion can save the day for you.
Duffers of the world, try this: Imagine yourself in the middle of one of those crap rounds where every 3-wood off the tee ends up in the rough, every 5-iron overshoots the green and draws angry stares from the group ahead at the next tee, where every putt becomes two and your smug brother-in-law says yet again, “so – another 7?” Take that day and put it onstage in front of the world. Give it TV cameras from every network on the planet, commentary courtesy of everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Mary Hart, and more column inches than…well, let’s leave measuring inches out of it for now. You get the picture. You were once the Best Player in the World. Maybe you still are. But not now, not today – because today, it seems more important for you to be the Best Actor in the World. If in fact you’re acting. And if you’re not – well then, the problem may be more serious…
So what should Tiger do? Elsewhere on this blog, it’s suggested that he should return to his profligate ways – that to regain his swagger & skill on the course, he’s got to strut off the course as well, go back to being invincible, unrepentant Tiger. Could be. All we can say is that whatever he’s doing now isn’t working.
Me? I feel for the guy, as an athlete, at least. I don’t like the prurient interest the world took in his sexploits, and is now taking in his travails on the course. I hope he gets his game back (though I suspect he won’t, not in any consistent way). And I hope that the next Best Player in the World (Mickelson, Stricker, or whoever else) gets the credit he deserves, and doesn’t have the shadow of the emasculated Tiger forever hanging over his reign.