Tiger Woods is lost, in every literal and figurative way

No, the Tiger Woods you met in that Jupiter, Florida, police report is not the Tiger Woods presented to you by Tiger, his sponsors and his reps. That Woods was a new and improved human being since his extramarital sex scandal from hell, a better father and friend, with or without golf in his life.

This Woods was found asleep in his damaged Mercedes in the dead of night, with his brake lights on, his right blinker flashing, his bumpers banged up, and his two driver-side tires flat. He could have accidentally killed himself. He could have accidentally killed a perfectly innocent motorist or pedestrian who happened to be on the wrong street at the wrong time.

The good news? Woods had his seat belt fastened. The bad news? He was lost in every literal and figurative way.

“Woods stated that he did not know where he was,” the police report said.

It’s likely the most honest thing Tiger told the officers on the scene.

The police said he told them he had been playing golf in Los Angeles, and then changed his story. Woods’ speech was described as “extremely slow and slurred, mumbled, confused,” and his attitude was described as “sluggish, sleepy, unable to walk alone.” The report said he couldn’t put his heel to toe in a walk-and-turn test, that he didn’t raise his leg 6 inches in a one-leg standing test, and that he did not return his arms to his side in a finger-to-nose test. Asked if he understood the instructions involved in the Romberg alphabet test, the report stated Woods initially responded, “Yes, recite entire national anthem backwards,” before ultimately completing the task correctly.

Woods blew a 0.00 on his breath test, backing up his Monday night statement that alcohol wasn’t involved in his DUI arrest. But he told police he was taking several prescribed medications, and later in that same statement apologized for conduct he attributed to an “unexpected reaction” to those medications.

Just as in 2009, at the outset of his sex scandal, Woods has again reduced himself to a human piñata on social media. On a celebrity scale, his mug shot ranks somewhere between Nick Nolte’s and James Brown’s (you can Google them). And the next time Tiger tees it up on a golf course — assuming there is a next time — it’s likely that the same guy who shouts all those hopelessly annoying things on contact will attempt to sing a line or two from the national anthem … backwards, of course.

Woods was reckless as the top-ranked golfer in the world (too many mistresses to count), and now he’s proven reckless as the 876th-ranked golfer in the world. (How can a man allow himself to get behind the wheel in that state of mind, at that time in the morning?) In other words, he has told us he is reckless, whether he’s dominating his sport or in too much pain from his back surgeries to play even nine competitive holes.

Truth is, Woods has never allowed himself to be an easy person to like, inside or outside the locker room. He made almost no attempt to connect with the fans who nevertheless adored him while he elevated golf to a place it’s never been. Even when he emerged from a blue curtain in February 2010 to apologize for his serial infidelity and what he called “my irresponsible and selfish behavior,” Woods had the audacity to lecture the news media on its coverage of his indiscretions.

On some level, that’s OK. We as a society make exceptions for the greatest of the great, and it seems that geniuses of all shapes and sizes, from Tiger Woods to Steve Jobs, often act like a seven-letter word that begins with “a” and ends with “e.”

And make no mistake: Woods was a legitimate genius. He conquered an unconquerable game, maybe the hardest game in the world to be very good at. In covering sports for more than 30 years, and in watching them for 45, I’ve never seen anyone or anything more staggering than Woods in action in his prime. What he did with the golf ball was more amazing, to this set of eyes, than the acrobatic things Michael Jordan did with a basketball in midflight.

More than anything, I’d really like to see Woods get healthy and whole for the sake of his two children. He knows firsthand the importance of a strong father figure in a kid’s life, and he hasn’t been the same person since his own father, Earl, died in 2006. I’d like to see Tiger get healthy and whole for selfish reasons, too. Maybe this is what happens when you get a little older and a little wiser. You wish you had a do-over, or a mulligan, on certain moments in life just for the chance to appreciate them more than you did the first time around.

I thought I’d get to see Woods win 20 to 25 majors, and so did Jack Nicklaus, the record holder with 18, and just about every other golf fan who was paying attention. I never thought Tiger would end up stuck on 14, and that the rest of us would be stuck right there with him for the past nine years.

Yet here we are with Woods in the middle of another ungodly mess of his own design. Some are reveling a bit in his latest downfall, and perhaps that’s the price Tiger has to pay for wearing that invisible yet very clear “Do Not Disturb” sign around his neck while becoming the world’s most recognizable athlete.

But we all get into the business of watching and caring about sports for a simple reason: We want to see athletes do things physically that were once thought impossible. Their warmth and generosity of spirit along the way is merely a bonus, not a prerequisite.

So yeah, I’d like to see Woods find his way home sooner rather than later. So what if he has spent most of his career as a taker instead of a giver. I just want to fully appreciate the artist at work one last time, in one last tournament, on one last Sunday.

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