James Corrigan: Tiger cannot admit he is beset by self-doubt - Golf - Sport - The Independent

James Corrigan: Tiger cannot admit he is beset by self-doubt

The Way I See It: An insider who knows him talks about Woods' "broken mental apparatus", but the talent hasn't left him

Like a fool with a bunch of fivers chasing that damned pea, we keep on falling for it. Tiger Woods hits a great shot, compiles a great round and we climb the ladders to the rooftops to scream "he's back". A 75 later, we are back in the cellar quietly polishing the obit. Yes, yes, we were right all along: the old Tiger is dead.

Perhaps it is apt that his latest brush with resurrection occurred in Australia. Two years ago tomorrow, the world No 1, as he was back then, won the Australian Masters. Who would have believed he would not win again in the next 24 months? Maybe a scandal-sheet editor possessed the inside info to cast a new light on his infallibility, but even he or she wouldn't have figured the scale of the downfall or the span of the drought. This golfing collapse has been beyond all but those catastrophic forecasts which saw him quitting the game.

Of course, those unwilling to accept his domination is part of history will point to the fact he finished fourth at the Masters and even to his stirring 67 to take third place at yesterday's Australian Open. That's not bad, they'll claim, for an athlete who spent months on the sidelines with injury and who is still coming to terms with a swing overhaul. In fact, it's richly promising. So, be patient; stick with him; we will see his like again.

Woods caresses those promises like a blind man grips his stick. He has no other option but to hold on tight. When he is asked, like he was in Sydney, whether he believes he can reign like he used to, the answer has to be in the affirmative. If he loses the belligerence to state that, then he truly will have lost everything. The new Tiger cannot admit who he is; a player beset by self-doubt, haunted by the memories of his forsaken hegemony.

He is hardly alone on that score. When he eventually wins again (and yesterday surely confirms he will), prepare for the grand pronouncements to bound up and down each and every fairway. The millstone will have been ditched and so the chase for Jack Nicklaus's record mark will have resumed. How silly we all were ever to have doubted. Thank you Luke, thank you Rory for filling in; you can now take your leave from centre stage. Because guess what – he's back.

Tiger won't be. He may well resemble what he was, but what he was would no longer stand out so singularly on this sporting landscape. As Woods has gone backwards, so golf has gone forwards, meaning the mountain has grown higher as he has scratched around for his gear in the foothills.

As it is, it can barely last four days, never mind a sustained ascent. Saturday was pure golfing groundhog. After appearing supreme, his motion suddenly veered into the ugly and uncertain, his mind duly followed and through the robustness of his insecurity the man who perennially turned 69s into 65s carved out a three-over from a level par. We've seen this time and again since the fireballing of his saintlyhood. Even his friends admit to the frustration of his competitive failures. "I've seen the best stuff I've ever seen in my life," said John Cook, a regular practice partner. "I always tell Tiger: 'Why don't you just go out and do that'?"

Tiger is desperate to. An insider who knows Woods talks about his "broken mental apparatus" and therein is the truth. The talent has not left him – how could it? – but the conviction has certainly gone its own way. Of all his costly splits, this is the break-up carrying the most noughts.

It is difficult not to feel some sympathy for the legend who had it all and sacrificed it in life's casino. But the fascination remains the stronger emotion. It is a tumble with no apparent safety net, but with the trampoline we continually convince ourselves is there. Where next will the descent take him? To Melbourne, the city of his most recent success; the city where the first mistress was located, so soon to be exposed. What is this? Shakespeare?

This week he plays in the Presidents Cup, the rest of the world's version of the Ryder Cup as they try to bring down the titan that just about remains American golf. Woods will be forced to field queries of whether he deserves his place. Think about that for a second. Many do not consider Woods to be one of the top 12 golfers in his own country. That is a staggering verdict of where he is right now. But his captain, Fred Couples, will stand by him and do not be surprised if in the protective climes of a team-room he emerges as the hero of Melbourne.

But what will that mean? That he's back? Or that he's fallen to a level he always despised? Where he would be forced to share the glory with others; where the personal victories are nothing of the sort unless there's a trophy to take home. Tiger the gutsy loser, Tiger the team man? The Old Tiger would simply snarl.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food