The lonesome valley of Tiger Woods

Tiger in the final round at FirestoneTiger Woods’ miserable performance at Firestone this week has all the usual suspects asking all the usual questions about the man. He shot the worst 72-hole score of his career, and finished second-to-the last in the field. His final score was 39 shots higher than the record he set at the tournament 10 years ago. It was nothing short of ugly, and the tour’s final major, the PGA, is next week.

Everybody wants to say (but doesn’t dare) that his sexual dalliances finally catching up with him was too big a psychological issue for even the stone-willed Tiger to overcome. His personal life in shambles, Tiger is hitting bottom, and that’s the sad outcome of such self-destructive behavior. He had it coming. So there.

As I’ve written before, of all the addictions, sexual addiction is the most misunderstood, because its subsequent behavior is so culturally reprehensible. What makes a man with everything and with perhaps the most recognizable face in the world think he can get away with a bevy of girlfriends outside his marriage? Those unfamiliar with sexual addiction can only point their judgmental fingers at Tiger and reason based on their own knowledge, their own perceptions, their own explanations of such behavior.

But addiction is an evil beyond the grasp of those who don’t know it. Reasons are irrelevant to the cure. Reasons don’t matter. What does matter is that the sickness that gripped this wonderful athlete and man is deep within his being. At core, he simply doesn’t like himself very much — in fact, can’t like himself — so it is impossible, without a LOT of work, for him to accomplish greatness for himself. Impossible.

I don’t think Tiger Woods will ever win again, until he’s found somebody to win for. That may end up being himself, but I think it’ll more likely be in the form of a new companion. As nuts as it might sound, Tiger’s immense skill was brought under control by his need to please women with whom he felt some form of bond. This is one of the curses of sexual addiction, a relentless chasing of the wind in attempts to please.

Why does he need to please? Because he doesn’t deem himself worthy of anything just as Tiger Woods. He must perform, and this isn’t a conscious thing. It is buried deep within him. And since pleasing others eventually runs into human nature, arguments or misunderstandings are exaggerated to the nth degree, and doors are forever closed. A simple “no” can be tantamount to betrayal. Disappointment becomes the rejection that he knows is at the end of every relationship, because that’s what he deserves.

This is the paradox of self-destructive behavior found in addicts.

You may think Tiger Woods the ultimate self-centered prick, and in ways that really matter, he is. But all addicts suffer real pain from a deep fear of rejection or abandonment, and relief from that is what the addict seeks.

In a very real sense, therefore, Tiger Woods was inspired by his lovers, all of them, and winning tournaments was his way of responding to that inspiration. He won for them, because he was incapable of winning for himself. You could say that he won for his dad, too, and that wouldn’t be far off.

But a man needs affirmation from a woman, and as an adult, that comes from relationships. Like all addicts, Tiger confused intensity with intimacy, and convinced himself that each of these women offered him their love.

This is the profoundly confused mind of the addict, and as I’ve watched Tiger try to get back to the top of his game since this all happened, I can’t help but think that perhaps he should have simply walked away from golf for a very long time, until he got to the place that we call “comfortable in his own skin,” because until that happens, he doesn’t have a clue about how to chase away the demons that haunt him.

He won’t win again until he has somebody to win for. Bank on it.


  1. Superb article. I have often said I did not believe he would win again. Now I understand why I feel that way. He is a tortured soul and needs to find solice outside the ropes. Thanks for the insight.


  1. […] I wrote two pieces about this in 2010, The Lonely Journey of Tiger Woods in February after his public amends in front of the press, and then a follow‐up in August after the total collapse of his game, The Lonesome Valley of Tiger Woods. […]

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