Monday, March 22, 2021

Tiger (2021)

This HBO documentary is a fair summation of all we know about Tiger Woods to this point, a remarkable roller-coaster ride worth reviewing every step of the way—or at least it was a fair summation until his auto accident last month, on which news is trickling in slowly. Still, this documentary filled in a lot of gaps for me, notably about his father Earl and the demise of Woods's marriage (not to mention the pharmaceuticals episode in 2017). As fully packed as it is Tiger is arguably premature even on golf, as Woods is still only 45. Jack Nicklaus won his last major at 46 and Tom Watson seriously contended for one at 59. At the same time, Tiger makes clear enough the possibility that Woods has used up a lot of his body once and for all. I did not know quite what a prodigy he was—he had an amazing swing at age 2, which somehow ended up on a TV show with Bob Hope. The evidence is here. His father Earl was a harsh master but the dream was not just athletic domination in an unlikely realm, but then using that as a springboard to becoming a "chosen one" historical figure the size of Mahatma Gandhi. Heavy burden, especially when you have the athletic talent for the first step. I remember Woods always seemed to be in the peripheral vision of ESPN through the early '90s but he really busted out for me, as with much of the world, with the 1997 Masters win, which was utterly convincing of the road ahead and the way he lived it out as a professional golfer. The documentary spends all suitable time on his greatest wins, that '97 Masters and the 2000 and 2008 U.S. Opens, plus, of course, the little wonderful miracle of the 2019 Masters, on which the documentary ends with an upbeat note. Tiger is not exactly authorized. There are many friends of the family interviewed, with a good deal of evident insight, but there are no family members, not his mother or ex-wife Elin, let alone Woods himself. Understandable. In many ways the distance is useful. This story may be told best by others. For me, it was the brutal downfall that had the most gaps, as after a while I couldn't bear to look anymore in real-time. So finally I have a better idea, for example, of what happened that Thanksgiving night in 2009 with the bizarre auto accident. And some better idea of the potential sex addiction driving him—which sounds real and disturbingly intense. A word that comes up a lot in regard to Woods in this documentary is "compartmentalization"—his ability for it not only rivals his ability for golf, it's practically the reason for his achievement. And it is everywhere in his life and sometimes doesn't seem far from "disassociation." He's a sad figure in many ways, for all the joy and pleasure he has wrought. He's one that celebrity may have swallowed whole. But the story is not done yet either. Meanwhile, this will get you pretty much up to speed.

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