The Emotional Miseducation of Tiger Woods

Portrait of golfer Tiger Woods with his father Earl Woods in 1992.
David Strick / Redux

“I will be sorta like a Michael Jordan in basketball,” a teenage Tiger Woods says for the period of a 1990 interview featured in a brand fresh documentary on the legendary American golfer. Moments earlier than, Woods beneficial he also can one day overshadow the everyday player Jack Nicklaus: “I will be even larger than him—to the Blacks.” Such brazen statements pepper most sports activities documentaries, and HBO’s Tiger comprises many hallmarks of the type. We hear the young Woods predict his impending reign. In as a lot as date interviews, cultural commentators, journalists, and the athlete’s company mirror on his a few years of greatness. Clips of the prodigy preserving a club in his unsteady hand give methodology to footage of him striding via—and dominating—verdant golf classes all the very best draw via the realm. The ascent is constructive: An risky small one has change into this story’s hero.

The place Tiger differs from many sports activities docs, along with final yr’s ESPN sequence about Jordan, is in its candid and customarily wrenching portrayal of its discipline’s emotional life. Directed by Matthew Heineman and Matthew Hamachek, the two-half production attracts primarily from the 2018 biography of the same name by Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict. (The 2nd half airs this weekend.) Woods participated in neither the e-book nor the movie, and his distance from each and each projects lends them an unexpected intimacy. Sports documentaries, namely these that comprises access to their athlete protagonists, are inclined to stress their skill and talent to the exclusion of their interiority. For men in particular, that will per chance well point out focusing nearly entirely on psychological and bodily toughness. The documentaries change into workouts no longer simply in self-promotion nonetheless additionally in masculine self-mythology. Weak point in all its kinds is barely one other hurdle to mercurial overcome. The one acceptable conclusion is excellence.

[Read: The neverending story of the Tiger Woods comeback]

But unlike The Final Dance, which steers a long way off from discussions of unflattering family dynamics, Tiger goes the place it wants. While the movie spends big time revisiting its discipline’s profession highlights, it does its most revelatory work by zeroing in on the tall psychological toll it took for Eldrick Woods the prodigy to alter into Tiger, the phenom. Accurate via the documentary, archival audio of Tiger’s gradual father, Earl Woods, most clearly illustrates the pressures positioned on the young golfer. Earlier than the interview wherein Tiger Woods compares himself to Jordan, to illustrate, we hear Earl Woods explaining the monumental job he’s assigned to his son: “The enviornment is ready for a nonwhite golfer to achieve success,” Earl publicizes. “I even hold availed Tiger of this, and he takes that accountability severely.” That the movie begins and ends with the relate of the elder Woods is no coincidence.

Interviews with family company and colleagues reveal to Tiger’s notify carrying this accountability, namely in his formative years. They point out that Earl recurrently cited Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela because the forms of unifying figures whose diploma of affect his son would one day conclude. By means of these anecdotes and archival commentary from the ’90s, the movie charts the procedure of no longer simply a world-class athlete nonetheless additionally a shy man, one who never got the likelihood to be a typical boy or to notify himself openly. “When this thing came about, I believed, Effectively, right here’s stunning for golf,” one anchor says of Tiger’s big advertising deal with Nike, wherein he used to be pitched because the game’s Murky future. “But I shock how mammoth right here’s for simply a 21-yr-old small one. The bar is now methodology up right here.”

By means of the lens of these emotional burdens, the fashioned beats of the Tiger Woods story purchase on extra complexity, namely in terms of lag. In 1997, Woods appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and suggested the host that he calls himself “Cablinasian,” eliciting disappointed, and customarily vitriolic, responses from Murky American citizens who’d change into invested in him. (Woods’s mom used to be born in Thailand, and he has blended ancestry by job of every and each of his of us.) But in its dissection of Tiger’s strained relationship with Earl, the movie opens up one other interpretation of the golfer’s apparent discomfort along with his Blackness: Clearly a 21-yr-old denied most socialization, along with along with his Murky relations, didn’t hold many venues to be taught about Murky culture or in regards to the historical previous of lag in The US. More pointedly, viewers can heed how a young man also can unconsciously face up to his father’s quiz that he single-handedly trade the sports activities world and heal The US’s racial wounds.

In a methodology, moderately just a few Tiger’s storylines gathered fit the fashioned fable for celeb athletes. Acknowledging intense stress, each and each public and inner most, can heighten viewers’ appreciation of the discipline’s accomplishments. But Tiger’s most compelling moments shed gentle no longer on what its protagonist did, nonetheless on what he also can hold felt. One such memorable scene ingredients the PGA director Joe Grohman, who used to be shut to the Woods family. In an interview, Grohman admits that his like sexual indiscretions, and Earl’s, had a devastating affect on Tiger as a formative years: “Here’s a tricky one,” Grohman says with a instruct earlier than having a detect a long way off from the camera: “Shit. He’s no longer gonna like this shit the least bit … For a truly very lengthy time, me and Earl had been the supreme male figures in his life, the two closest to him. And right here I am, chasing skirts and bringing ’em to the route, and he’s seeing this. To hold that kinda access to this small one’s type and expose him to that, it’s simply—yeah, I point out, yeah. Sorry, champ. Sorry.”

Accurate via the movie, moderately just a few interviewees mirror on the emotional hardships that Tiger confronted as an grownup, too. A couple of of the girls who’ve identified Tiger finest complicate the final public image of him. They reiterate how powerful he idolized Earl and how immensely Earl’s philandering effort his son. They retain in thoughts how fragile Tiger used to be underneath the hardened exterior that he (and his father) presented to the realm. In a single scene, Tiger’s high-college female friend revisits the dispassionate breakup letter he wrote her after his of us insisted the relationship used to be a distraction from golf. “His sweetness used to be stolen,” she says. In a single other, a childhood friend remembers Tiger changing into intensely drawn to scuba diving and explaining that he used to be drawn to it due to “the fishies don’t know who I am down there.”

In case you’ve adopted Woods’s profession closely, Tiger doesn’t offer a ton of contemporary cloth—it revisits storylines which had been reported for the period of his time as a public figure. The documentary’s 2nd half, which airs on Sunday, traces the intercourse scandal that brought Tiger’s profession to a live in 2009, and his sluggish climb support in the years since. But Tiger isn’t a redemption fable so powerful as it is an emotional biopsy. The lurid vital positive components of Tiger’s many affairs while married to Elin Nordegren aren’t all that attention-grabbing. Accrued, there’s something uniquely affecting about listening to from Rachel Uchitel, the girl on the center of the predominant broadly reported story about Tiger’s infidelity. Uchitel hadn’t spoken publicly in regards to the affair earlier than; in her interview, she doesn’t dwell on their sexual relationship, as an different painting a portrait of a particular person caged in by the life that had been chosen for him a few years prior. “He used to be so anxious of the exact Tiger no longer matching as a lot as the Tiger that all americans thinks he’s,” she remembers. How also can anybody match as a lot as that?


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