Tiger Woods was the rock star of the golf world – an athlete who transcended his sport but later became a news story for all the wrong reasons.
Now a Sky Original documentary sets out to chronicle the 44-year-old golfer’s rise, his fall from grace and his miraculous comeback.
Produced in association with Sky Sports, the film features previously unreleased footage from the sports star’s early career, including a candid interview with his father Earl at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996.
It is Tiger’s first professional tournament, and interviewer David Livingstone asks the father what he thinks of his son’s future.
Earl Woods replies, “Have you ever ridden a roller coaster and it derails? And it goes out and it just keeps going and going and going. There’s no limit to his future, there’s no limiting factor, because he’s got a talent, he’s got the desire and he’s just going to get better and better and better.”
His answer proved to be more prescient than he could have ever believed.
Tiger blazed a trail for minorities in golf, becoming the first African American and the first Asian American to win the Masters, breaking tournament records, at just 21 years old.
In his career – which spans three decades – he won all four of golf’s major tournaments at the same time, won the Masters three straight times (five times total) and has won a total of 15 major tournaments.
The film’s director, Nick German, called his impact on the sport “the Tiger factor,” telling Sky News, “Woods didn’t move the needle, he was the needle.”
German continued, “A lot of players wouldn’t be in the place they are now without Tiger.
“They were either inspired by him to become players or they’re playing for prize money in tournaments that are so big just because of the Tiger factor in the 1990s and 2000s.”
The documentary is not just a film for golf lovers, but tells the story of Woods as a son, father and athlete who makes the comeback that few thought he could.
It is a story told through Tiger’s own words, but without his direct involvement.
The director explains, “We felt it wasn’t the right time to do a complete retrospective of his career while it was still in progress. We felt we could take a more objective approach to the story by not including Tiger.”
Woods was very close to his father, who died of a heart attack in 2006.
The ex-Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran instilled in his son a toughness and confidence that was almost bulletproof.
He also instilled in the golfer a resilient attitude toward injury – the phrase “suck it up” is one of Tiger’s most frequently uttered mantras.
In the documentary, we learn that it was not uncommon for Tiger to punish himself with an eight- or nine-mile run after a game in which he felt he played poorly.
According to a neurological spine surgeon who is a contributor to the documentary, his devotion to military fitness and penchant for “punishing workouts” likely played a large role in his knee and back problems during his later career.
In another previously unseen portion of the documentary, filmed at Tiger’s first professional tournament, he is asked about an injury he suffered on the 13th.
Tiger replied, “Like my dad always says, I have to suck it up and move on.”
German says his answer is telling: “His attitude about his injuries is a harbinger of everything that happens after that.”
For many who don’t follow the sport, however, it was Tiger’s very public personal life that made him a household name, rather than his athletic accomplishments.
In 2009, Woods publicly apologized to his then-wife Elin for numerous infidelities and announced an indefinite hiatus from professional golf.
They divorced the following year.
German acknowledges that the scandal had to be handled sensitively, but was central to the athlete’s story.
“For the first time in Tiger’s life, he was not only a story on the back pages, but also on the front pages,” he says.
“Problems in his personal life also affected his game and after that there seemed to be a kind of aura loss around him.
“I can’t speak for the players who were competing with him at the time, but there was definitely a sense that he had lost something and was suddenly human and beatable. His struggles with what was going on made him even more fragile as a player. That’s a hugely important part of the story.”
In addition to his personal issues, Tiger also had to overcome numerous serious injuries – including damage to his knee, back, shoulder and neck.
“He had four serious injuries and he had one last chance surgery [in 2017] that fused two discs together
Es war jedoch Tigers Verhaftung im Jahr 2017 wegen Fahrens unter Alkoholeinfluss – die wiederum für Schlagzeilen sorgte -, die ihn dazu veranlasste, sich wegen seiner Schmerzmittelsucht behandeln zu lassen und schließlich sein Leben wieder in den Griff zu bekommen.
Es war sein unerschütterlicher Siegeswille, der trotz seiner zahlreichen körperlichen Verletzungen noch sehr intakt war, der zu seiner Comeback-Entwicklung führte.
Wie Tiger im Film sagt: “Ich schaue zurück auf Fehler, die ich gemacht habe, und denke: ‘Wie könnte ich es besser machen?’, sowohl im Leben als auch auf dem Golfplatz.”
German erklärt: “Er nahm an der Open Championship teil und wurde Zweiter, dann an der PGA Championship und wurde Zweiter. Das alles half, den Glauben an sein Comeback nach der Verletzung und diese 18 Monate bis zwei Jahre vor dem Masters aufzubauen.”
Tigers Dominanz über so viele Jahre hinweg wird visuell in einer Szene gegen Ende des Films deutlich, in der er bei einer Auswahl von Turnieren, bei denen er triumphiert hat, einen Hügel hinaufläuft.
Dank des geschickten Schnitts von Cutter Robbie Easterbrook scheinen wir Woods um Jahrzehnte altern zu sehen, während er sich dem letzten Loch nähert.
Ein weiterer Schlüsselmoment des Films zeigt entscheidende Momente in Tigers Karriere.
Deutsch erklärt: “Am Ende des Films sieht man einen Vater, der seinen Sohn umarmt, als dieser das 18. Grün verlässt und das Masters 1997 gewinnt.
“Und dann, ganz am Ende des Films, geht ein Vater [Tiger] vom 18. Grün [beim Masters 2019] und umarmt seinen eigenen Sohn. Es ist ein kompletter Kreis.”
Wie Woods selbst anmerkt, war es das erste Mal im Leben seiner Kinder, dass sie sahen, dass Golf ihm Freude und nicht Schmerz brachte.
Die Dokumentation enthält auch exklusive Interviews mit Golflegenden wie Butch Harmon, Sir Nick Faldo und Notah Begay III.