The Sunday Mail
It was 10 years ago, almost to the day, and it was a vintage Tiger Woods performance.
The Victorian Government was under pressure for funding his US$3 million appearance fee at the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath.
The tournament was a sellout — the galleries, the biggest seen in the country. Broadcaster Channel Nine threw everything at it in the middle of a Test cricket series.
The star delivered, leading from start to finish.
Little did anyone know it would be the final day of Tiger Woods 1.0.
Tiger 1.0 was the phenomenon who, 13 years earlier in late 1996, won his first PGA Tour event, before peeling off 14 majors in a thrill-a-minute 12-year run.
The child prodigy son of an African-American father and a Thai mother, Tiger first featured on TV hitting balls aged three.
But the golden run ended in Melbourne.
The National Enquirer was on his tail for rampant infidelity.
One of his girlfriends, Rachel Uchitel, was staying in a separate room at Crown Casino. She was photographed.
The rest is history.
His marriage ended in a ball of flames.
More and more affairs were revealed.
His world came crashing down.
The most telling comment from Woods through the whole saga was when he talked of a belief that he was “entitled” to behave that way.
Entitled because of the pressure he was under, and that he had been under since childhood.
Entitled because he was the greatest, the biggest sporting star on the planet post-Michael Jordan.
Most observers mistakenly think his golfing funk that followed was caused solely by the off-course issues.
That is not quite true.
Yes, it ruined him in the short term.
He was completely broken and deserved to be.
But he recovered.
It is easily forgotten that in 2013, he had a classic Tiger season, albeit one without a major.
He won the “fifth” major, the Players Championship, two World Golf Championship events and two other tour events.
He was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
The previous year he had won three times.
He was world No. 1 again for the first time since the scandal.
What seriously derailed him after that were injuries — never-ending knee and back surgeries.
They would work short term, then it was back to square one.
He went four years without a victory and could hardly swing a club.
Then, as he explained before the 2018 Masters after returning to the PGA Tour in late 2017 and registering several top-five finishes, something just “popped” after a radical fifth back surgery in which vertebrae were fused together.
“I could swing again,” he said.
“Then the club-head speed came back. It just popped. It was back. I was just happy to be walking without pain and suddenly I could play.”
You could still see the surprise in his eyes.
The “pop” was the birth of Tiger Woods 2.0.
The Tour Championship victory of 2018 brought amazing scenes, but it was the 2019 Masters win that truly restored all past glories.
The Masters was only about Tiger and the galleries went berserk.
He had gone 11 long years without a major, and those 11 years brought a lot of soul-searching.
Tiger Woods 2.0 is a different person. He talks of his love of being back and “hanging with the guys” on tour.
His main companion when he emerged on tour straight out of his teens was Mark O’Meara, who was 20 years his senior.
While Woods was friendly enough with his fellow tour pros, he was distant from them.
A bit like the superstar lead singer of the superstar band and headline act at a musical festival, he did not exactly hang with the bassist and drummer of second-string support bands. But the new Tiger does. Rory McIlroy and other stars have spoken about it.
“He has opened up a lot the last few years,” McIlroy said after Woods won a PGA Tour event in Japan a month ago.
“I think previously in his career, he didn’t take the camaraderie or being one of the guys as seriously as he does now as he transitions to this latter part of his career.
“He has definitely mellowed as a person and probably sees the bigger picture a little bit more than he used to.
“I have seen in the private moments who he is as a person and what a great dad he is, how seriously he takes that side of his life. It’s been great to see.”
Jack Nicklaus said much the same at the Masters. “Tiger was always so busy, he had so much going on and he was always in a hurry,” Nicklaus said. “Now, he stops and talks and has time and it’s nice.”
He is the same with the media — endlessly patient and genuinely polite.
Australia was the last stop on the Tiger Woods 1.0 tour — a star that burned as brightly as it spectacularly burnt out.
This coming week, as playing captain of the US team that takes on the Internationals in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne, Australia, will get to enjoy Tiger Woods 2.0.
And unlike most sequels, it is better than the original. – Smh.com.au