The endless demise of Tiger Woods
The news that Tiger Woods has been arrested for driving under the influence adds yet another chapter to the Shakespearean downfall of one of the world’s greatest ever golfers.
The fact that he is only seen as one of the greatest and not the greatest of all time, is symptomatic of the undoing that has befallen the troubled Tiger.
Since the public breakdown of his marriage in 2009, Woods has only won eight tournaments, struggling to overcome recurring back problems, and hasn’t played since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
Now, only days after declaring that he hadn’t ‘felt this good in years’ after successful back surgery, Woods’ return to the tee has been brought into question again after his arrest in Jupiter, Florida.
Woods was apprehended by Palm Beach County police in the early hours of America’s Memorial Day, and was later released to await legal proceedings.
Despite initial reports assuming that alcohol was involved, Woods said that an ‘unexpected reaction to prescribed medication’ was to blame for his reckless driving, a claim which was later confirmed by the police.
After this latest twist in his eventful career, Sports Gazette looks back on Tiger’s demise with a little help from Google Trends.
The beginning of the (probable) end
On November 27th 2009, the night of Thanksgiving, police were called to Woods’ house in Florida after he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a neighbour’s tree.
Tiger’s wife, Elin Nordegren, had smashed the car’s back window with a golf club in an apparent attempt to get an unconscious Woods out of the vehicle.
Whatever actually happened that fateful night will probably never be known, but it was these events that set off the downward spiral in which Woods seems to be forever stuck.
As shown below, interest in Tiger spiked in the days following the scandal, as rumours about his personal life spread like wildfire among the public and the press.
Stories emerged about affairs with two separate women, and Gatorade became the first of several sponsors to end their association with Woods.
On December 11th 2009, Woods announced he was to take an indefinite break from professional golf to focus on ‘being a better husband, father, and person’.Whatever actually happened that fateful night will probably never be known, but it was these events that set off the downward spiral in which Woods seems to be forever stuck.”
The silence is broken
Despite rumours raging on for the next couple of months – it was now claimed that Woods had slept with nearly 20 other women – there remained relative silence from him and his representatives.
Eventually, on February 19th 2010, Tiger made his first public appearance in a highly-orchestrated press conference at a Florida golf course.
There, he apologised for his actions, saying that he had already begun to address his problems by attending rehab for sex addiction, and denied rumours that his wife had attacked him on that November night.
This public apology represents the second spike seen on the chart above, as public interest in Woods’ private life reignited.
Return to the greens
In March, Woods announced he would return to golf at the Masters, and his return to the sport was preceded by comments from Augusta chairman Billy Payne, who said: “his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change.”
Tiger made a successful return to the sport with a tied 4th place finish at Augusta, but was beaten to the green jacket by Phil Mickelson, a dedicated family man who represented everything Tiger did not.
Woods’ appearance at the Masters is again seen to have piqued public interest, represented by the third spike on the above chart.
The broken years
In the seven years or so since then, Woods has struggled to regain his exalted place on and off the golf course.
His divorce from wife Elin was finalised by August 2010, and she was awarded a $100 million settlement.
After a promising period between 2012 and 2013 Woods regained world number one status, which he held until April 2014 when he needed back surgery.
Recurrent back injuries have since blighted his attempted returns to the sport, and he recently underwent surgery for the fourth time.
This leads us to the present, and his arrest for DUI.
Do people care anymore?
Analysis of Google Trends from the last 3 years throws up some interesting conclusions.
The chart below shows that interest in Woods remained relatively high in 2014 and 2015. The first spike corresponds to his withdrawal from the 2014 Ryder Cup, citing injury. The second represents his appearance at the 2015 Masters, where he finished tied for 17th, a promising result.
However since mid-2015, searches for Tiger plummeted until his appearance at the Hero World Challenge over a year later.
Interestingly, search figures for the last couple of days since his arrest don’t even come close to those during his most recent tournament appearances.
This begs the question: do people care about Tiger anymore?
Perhaps this means the public are tired of hearing about his private life and just want to see him return to former glories on the golf course?
Or perhaps people have moved on from Tiger altogether? Golf is currently awash with several star players and role models, and it seems that Tiger’s time in the public’s imagination may be coming to an unceremonious end.
Current number one Dustin Johnson has overcome personal problems of his own to make his way to the top.
Jason Day, currently sitting at number three in the world, rose to the pinnacle of world golf through family tragedy and a tough upbringing.
Other high-ranking stars such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Henrik Stenson all seem to do their talking on the course.
While it may be injury that has so far prevented Tiger from doing the same, this latest debacle may just represent the end for the man who had it all.