Tiger's wild roller coaster ride
In many ways, Tiger Woods probably feels a bit like an out-of-control roller coaster that has just veered off on to a different set of tracks.
With his private life in disarray since the end of last year, Woods returned to the welcome sanctuary of golf after a self-imposed exile of five months at the US Masters.
For a while, all was well as he enjoyed a warm welcome from the genteel galleries at Augusta National and impressively he appeared to shrug off any hint of rust by tying for fourth at the year’s opening major five weeks ago.
Since then, however, Woods’s fortunes have plummeted.
His golf deteriorated and he missed the cut by a staggering eight shots at the Quail Hollow Championship and then pulled out of the final round of the Players Championship in Florida on Sunday due to a painful neck injury.
With rumours swirling that a divorce from his Swedish wife Elin is imminent following his stunning fall from grace, Woods learned late on Monday that Hank Haney, his swing coach of six years, had ended their relationship.
Haney’s move ended mounting speculation about a split between the two, as well as ongoing criticism of the coach’s methods by several television analysts and other teachers.
Haney, who succeeded Butch Harmon, had helped the American world number one win 31 PGA Tour events and six major championships and Woods thanked him on Tuesday for being an outstanding teacher and friend.
While Woods gave no hint as to Haney’s likely successor, the 14-times major champion will now be focusing on the results later this week of an MRI scan of his neck.
Once again, he is under intense media scrutiny as he grapples with the latest setback in his life.
“It’s certainly not where I would like to have it, there’s no doubt,” Woods said earlier this week regarding the mental state of his game. “There are a lot of things going on in my life, period, right now.
“Just trying to get everything in a harmonious spot, that’s not easy to do. I’m also trying to make life changes as well, and trying to do that under the microscope of everyone asking me and watching everything I do doesn’t make it easy.”
Woods, whose double life was stunningly exposed at the end of last year amid revelations of a string of marital infidelities, said he had been helped in his efforts.
“I have so many great friends and peers that have gone through things that I am going through and battling,” he added.
“People have been at it for a lot longer than me, and that helps to be able to talk with them and share my feelings.”
Until Woods knows the exact state of his physical health, his plans to compete at the June 3-6 Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio and the June 17-20 US Open at Pebble Beach in California are “up in the air”.
For a player renowned for his love of being in total control of golfing matters, this has been another frustrating twist.
“That’s not a place where I want it to be, no doubt,” Woods said. “But I’ll have a lot more answers after I get the (MRI) picture.”
Woods famously defied doctor’s orders to compete in the 2008 US Open where he triumphed in a 19-hole playoff despite a painful knee and a double stress fracture of his left tibia.
This time, though, he plans to follow medical advice about his neck problem.
“This is an injury I know can get really bad,” Woods said.
“You just don’t want to mess with this. It is important to see what’s going on so I can do some rehabbing and get back at it.
I want to practise. I want to play. I want to compete.”
If Woods can put his neck problem behind him and return to his sanctuary out on the golf course, at least one half of his roller-coaster life will be back on a more even keel.