It’s just an impression, of course, albeit a persistent one, but it seems that from the time Tiger Woods (real name, Eldrick Tont, turning 38 this December) blew up his own image as model husband and father in 2009 he’s also lost forever his incredible rapport with the general public.
I think they never could completely forgive him though they tried.
Remember when he was caught red-handed by his wife Elin Nordegren with hot mail on his cell phone? She clubbed him for it in their car but he tried to pass it up as a road accident in Florida where they were then residing.
He denied and denied his infidelities but it didn’t wash. Not with the incriminating voicemail and text messages he’d been sending to his 15 or so mistresses who were only too eager to divulge them to the press. Cornered, Woods appeared on TV for a scripted mea culpa: “I am so sorry. I had affairs, I cheated. What I did was not acceptable, and I am the only person to blame . . . It is now up to me to make amends.”
From December 2009 to early April 2010, Woods dropped out of sight, on inpatient therapy to salvage his shattered marriage. Nine months later he and his wife were divorced. Elin received joint custody of their two children and an alleged $110 million divorce settlement. He lost a few million dollars more in cancelled publicity deals.
From World No. 1 position he tumbled headlong down to No. 58 in November 2011.
But this year Tiger Woods tops World Golf Rankings again, after the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 25, 2013. He has never stopped being one of the most successful golfers of all time. This child prodigy, who was introduced to golf before he was two years old by his athletic father, turned professional golfer when he was 21, and became PGA Player of the Year eleven times, has been the highest-paid athlete in the world for years.
High-profile endorsement deals are actually the bulk of his current earnings ($65 million). His playing on the course has yielded only $13.1 million.
Does this imply he’s back in the public’s good graces? Has he been forgiven his faithlessness? Maybe. But I still insist that the fervent adulation reserved for heroes – those who haven’t been found out to have feet of clay – is gone. True, he is vastly admired but only for his golfing genius, for the professional golfer that he is, not the man.
That’s still saying a lot, though. Ömer Çelik, the Minister of Turkey, said: “It was an honor to welcome Tiger to Istanbul. It demonstrates Turkey’s ability to attract and host the biggest names in world sport and we are certain he will enjoy his week.”
The minister, who equated his country’s prestige with its ability to get Woods to come, was referring to the latter’s participation in the Turkish Airlines Open held between 7 and 10 November in Antalya, the largest international resort on the Turkish Riviera. Featuring 78 of the world’s best golfers the Turkish Airlines Open is part of the European Tour’s inaugural Final Series and is the penultimate event on the 2013 Race to Dubai. Woods was the only non-European player in the tournament but the local government chose him to stage the best publicity stunts on hand.
On 5 November, before the opening of the golf tournament , Tiger Woods straddled two continents and hit a succession of golf balls from one continent to the other. Implausible? Not if he did it on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city. And the caper is hailed as a historic transcontinental tee shot and Woods was acclaimed as the first golfer to hit balls from East to West.
The gravity-anchored 3,524-foot long suspension bridge, which was completed in 1973 after 16 years of planning, spans the Bosphorus Strait and thus connects Europe (the European neighborhood of Ortaköy) with Asia (Beylerbeyi on the Asian shore).
Half of the six-lane bridge was closed for the Woods publicity stunt.
For the golfer “to be the first golfer to do this was very cool.” But it wasn’t easy: “”It was nerve-racking because the wind was off to the left and oncoming traffic was on my right. So, if I happen to, if I lost it to the right at all, I’m hitting some car. So I was trying to hit some draws up against the wind and trying to run it down there.”
For his part, Ahmet Ali Agaoglu, President of the Turkish Golf Federation, said: “We are delighted Tiger took part in this historical event. The presence of arguably golf’s greatest ever player in Turkey is wonderful for the profile of the game in the country.”
Everything’s coming up roses in the Woods again? He has a new girlfriend, the blonde (how predictable!) Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn who, referring to his well-earned amorous notoriety, told People magazine: “There’s really nothing about him that bothers me. He doesn’t even leave the seat up! It’s awesome.”
Should anyone keep their fingers crossed?