Unsettling Sight of a Tiger Tamed

Remember when golf was going to save Tiger Woods?

That was the dubious pop-psych theory last winter, as Woods uneasily emerged from a self-imposed shame hibernation following a conga line of messy allegations about his private life.

Saying "sorry" wasn't Woods's métier. His apologies were scripted and wooden, at times strangely defiant. A blue-curtained press conference in Florida appeared transmitted from Planet Awkward. A Nike commercial featuring his late father's disembodied voice bordered on macabre.

Just let him play golf, his defenders said. That's when you'll see the real Tiger. That's when the healing and absolution will begin. An opportunistic brigade of armchair therapists were quick to prescribe 18 holes—or perhaps, a 15th major—as a remedy for acute off-the-course trouble.

It was foolish medicine, more hair of the dog for a hangover. Who knew what Tiger Woods needed? Surely Woods didn't, not as he watched his pristine, sponsor-burnished reputation circle a very expensive drain.

We shouldn't have masked our selfishness. Woods's tabloid saga was tawdry and tedious; everyone longed to see him swing a club again. It was really fun to watch Woods play golf, and his stand-ins were likable but unglamorous. Not even Retief Goosen wants to watch 18 holes of Retief Goosen.

But it's been four months since Woods returned to playing golf, and the sport has not been his redemption—or any fun. He has yet to win a competition since his infamous early-morning car accident, and on Sunday, he finished a tournament tied for 78th place, two errant shots from dead last.

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