Sport on TV: Tiger was so deeply embedded he couldn't see Woods for trees

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The Independent Online

Somewhere in the jungles of Vietnam, a Special Forces officer called Earl Woods was dreaming of having a son who would change the world like Gandhi and Buddha did. In the event his boy would be rather lacking in morality compared to them, but he had a better short game than either.

According to the American sportswriter Gary Smith, Tiger Woods once told him: "My father's the kind of guy who would slit your throat and then sit down to eat his dinner." Presumably he used different knives. In Tiger Woods: The Rise And Fall (Channel 4, Thursday) Smith described the young Woods' education as "Vietnam on a golf course".

His talent was honed on the naval course in Cypress, California using the "standard operating procedures" of the US military (something about hiding in the bunker) but also a darker strategy based on the psychological operations witnessed by Earl in Vietnam.

He drafted in a character called Captain Jay Brunza to hypnotise Tiger, to the extent where, it is suggested, he may well have had long stretches of his surpassing success simply blanked out, even when he has been in his prime.

Tommy "Burnt Biscuit" from the black caddies' enclave of Sand Hill, a couple of miles from Augusta, also recalls Earl standing on a street corner completely unmoved as a little Tiger pinged golf balls past his head. Now that's crackers. Meanwhile Earl was basking in Tiger's reflected glory and cheating on his wife Tida with blonde on blonde. And Tiger was kept "in a bubble"; he had no friends. His only version of reality was his father's.

When, at 22, he was signed by his "corporate parents", IMG, in a $40 million deal, he was patently ill-equipped to deal with life outside golf. One of IMG's clients, apparently, was the Pope, but he seems to have had little influence.

So began the incessant fornication. Tiger organised his harem "with military precision" but in the end even that wasn't enough. The thrill of adultery became an end-away in itself, and a quickie in a church car park and a used tampon held as evidence by the scandal rag 'National Enquirer' proved his downfall.

Woods dictated what the media wrote about him for 13 years, according to the exceedingly seedy former 'Enquirer' editor Neil Bolton. And even their huge scoop was covered up in exchange for a front-cover picture in a sister publication, 'Men's Fitness'. Finally, a birdie who was sexy enough to grace their own front page, Rachel Uchitel, emerged from the rough and they ran the story.

This engrossing 90-minute documentary by Jacques Peretti ended with a little bit more titillation: the untold story of Tiger's lovechild. The "I'm Tiger Woods" campaign for Nike was his first major corporate deal. Like his father in the last commercial, those kids might be about to come back and haunt him.