Tiger Woods has proved himself to be all too human

Golfers like to watch Tiger Woods because there, but for the grace of God, a Nike Sasquatch driver and a golf ball molded to his precise personal tastes, go they.

Or so golfers like to think, anyway.

Really, there are those who can hit as far as, or farther, than Tiger. Some putt better, but not many.

No one, however, has hit the delicate chip Tiger pulled off at 16 at Augusta in 2005 to dust off someone named Chris DeMarco and send him back to oblivion. No one.

Of course, anyone could get into the kind of trouble that Tiger has seen since Thanksgiving.

Tiger, it turns out, isn’t just a range rat, pounding the driver over the 300-yard marker and working on the putting green to make 10-foot downhill double breakers look like tap-ins.

His nickname, “Urkel” — from the days before his famous Lasik surgery— was off by a few fairways, it seems.

Not to dwell on the unseemly, but at last count, Tiger had turned the corner and was burning up the back nine at Mistress Hills, an exclusive invitational played with no caddies or galleries. (The number is based on the claims of various women — Tiger has yet to offer his scorecard, although he acknowledged “transgressions.”)

Tiger, we have learned, is no different than duffers who leer at beer cart girls, except that he’s more capable of attracting and holding their attentions.

He’s not the first athlete to find his private life being portrayed in a in a less-than-flattering, if accurate, light.

Others have trod this road and in that sense, Tiger is no different from those who profited from athletic ability.

Tiger, though, actually is different.

We all watched Tiger grow up.

Golf fans and pretty much everyone else were aware of Tiger back when he was Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. Yes, he changed his name to ditch the Eldrick and take the quotation marks off Tiger.

As a 4-year-old, he was showing off his golf swing on “The Mike Douglas Show.”

People who follow the game took note when he enrolled at Stanford. Pretty close to Pebble Beach, not a bad place to learn how to play to the pro game. Tom Watson did the same thing.

Golfers know Tiger’s family. We saw him cry after winning the 2005 Master’s, all knowing that his father was deathly ill.

His father famously tutored young Tiger’s swing and wrote an advice book for other parents, after Tiger started to pile up victories.

Tiger named his yacht “Privacy” and he meant it, but he nonetheless invited, and profited from, occasional glimpses into his life off the green.

What could be more modern-day storybook than marrying the babysitter for a fellow golfer? A babysitter who just happened to be a Swedish bikini model?

It’s not as though golf is as staid as its detractors portray it.

Greg Norman — remember him? — made a run at the British Open with new wife Chrissie Evert — she plays some other sport, no one knows which one — in tow a couple years ago setting tongues a wagging and swelling up some divorce lawyers’ wallets.

They’re no longer an item, not that anyone really cares, of course.

Tiger, however, was above all that.

Golfers grew their games as they watched Tiger grow up and held him up as an example to their juniors.

The sporting world is well stocked with junior phenoms who look like gleaming new balls fresh out of the sleeve. Most are just rocks and never approach their alleged potential, but Tiger was the Titleist in the bag of clumpy, misshapen range balls.

He made the nasty downhill putts, he limped to a U.S. Open title on a bad knee. In doing so, Tiger joined the likes of Ben Hogan, who bandaged his legs, battered in an auto accident, to compete— and win.

And now Tiger is reduced to the freak show, a guy with tremendous talent, the world’s first $1 billion athlete, at least until Thanksgiving, who’s seeing his sponsors run from him faster than a ball leaves the face of his driver, which is traveling some 125 mph at impact.

Now he’s made of the same clay as the rest of us, a guy who fell prey to his worst impulses. He’s John Daly with less charm and that says something.

No longer are people wondering when, not if, he can top Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major victories.

Now the question is whether he can compete on a pro level, let alone scale the heights he occupied.

If anyone can, it’s probably Tiger.

If he can hold together the family he sundered and the golf game he seems to have surrendered, then we’ll be able to say again that we watched him grow.


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