Tiger Woods must open up in autobiography, says David Livingstone
Last Updated: 17/10/19 9:04am
After Tiger Woods confirmed he would be publishing a "definitive" autobiography, David Livingstone hopes to see the 15-time major champion be open and honest in his memoirs...
If Tiger Woods gets it right in the autobiography he's writing, he'll have the best-selling sports book of all time. Strangely enough, even if he gets it wrong, the result will probably be the same.
For his sake, I hope he produces a truthful, well-written account of his extraordinary life in all its parts, because only then will he get the respect he deserves as a person as much as a golfer.
If he writes honestly and openly about himself and leaves it up to us to balance the positives and negatives as we see fit, he'll earn not only millions of dollars in book sales around the world but also the right to genuine contentment in the second half of his life.
On the other hand, if he tries to control the narrative and present an image he wants us to see and believe, he'll still make plenty of money but few new friends. Scepticism will continue to haunt him and everything he says in the future.
For the moment though, everything sounds good. His publishers, Harper Collins, say the book, entitled 'Back', is a "candid and intimate narrative of an outsize American life". They also mention Tiger's status as a global icon and that's why I say the book will sell so many copies.
The closest comparison to a sportsman with that kind of world influence is Muhammad Ali and although he sanctioned an autobiography in 1975, it was largely discredited in later years.
"The Greatest: My Own Story" was said to be written in Ali's own words but it suffered from allegations of interference and censorship. One editor of the book said he wasn't sure it was the real story of Ali's life. And Ali, himself, apparently had little interest in the book and is said to have read it only after it had been published.
No such complications afflict Tiger's project. He says: "This book is my definitive story. It's in my words and expresses my thoughts. It describes how I feel and what's happened in my life."
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He says he's been working at it "steadily" which is a welcome contrast to the gushing promotion from the publishers about being "thrilled" and "delighted". I bet they are. If steadily also means diligently and thoroughly, then Tiger's to be admired.
It's not easy to write objectively about one's own life but that difficulty is magnified many times over for a sporting superstar who's seen the best and worst of times. Of course, we all want to hear what he has to say 10 years on about those dark days when his personal life unravelled, and that will be a troubling introspection for Tiger.
But probably just as difficult for Tiger will be discussing his relationship with his father. Earl Woods did not inspire much affection from outsiders but on the inside, in Tiger's world, he was a heroic figure. A veteran of two tours of duty in Vietnam, Earl retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and quickly adapted his military experience to the moulding of his young son as a golfer.
I always wondered what was really going on in his mind and his world. Even in his young days as a professional and long before he strayed into the temptations of later years, he was almost comically guarded about his private life
Reading about this in last year's biography "Tiger Woods" by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, I felt deeply uncomfortable about a father relentlessly, sometimes brutally, training his young son for sporting greatness.
Tiger missed out on a normal childhood but he hasn't ever complained. "My dad was my best friend and greatest role model," he said after his father died in May, 2006.
His current reflections on those days will be revealing because there is no doubt that his father's insistence on mental strength and self-reliance made Tiger an extremely powerful individual, sometimes to the point of isolation.
I was one of many who sat through hundreds of press conferences where he revealed absolutely nothing except that he was there to win the tournament.
Through our mutual friend Butch Harmon, I was granted many exclusive interviews with Tiger in which he said very little indeed. His big concession to me as an insider was to smile and be friendly and I remain grateful to this day for his warmth and courtesy.
But I always wondered what was really going on in his mind and his world. Even in his young days as a professional and long before he strayed into the temptations of later years, he was almost comically guarded about his private life.
In a quiet moment a few months after his first knee operation in 2002, I asked him what he'd been doing in his time away from golf. "Just rehabbing," he replied. I looked at him and said: "Yes, I understand that but what about the rest of the time, any books, movies, whatever?"
"Not really, just rehabbing," was the deadpan reply.
Another time, on a Saturday morning when he was in contention at the Players Championship at Sawgrass, I asked him what he'd been up to on the Friday evening to which he replied: "Just washing my car."
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I did make some inquiries after that and discovered he truly loved washing his car, but, in any case, what I think he was doing with those replies was just keeping his distance from any intrusion into his inner thoughts or feelings. Whether I'm right or wrong doesn't matter because now, perhaps, we're going to get the ultimate insight into the real Tiger Woods.
Announcing his book he said: "I've been in the spotlight for a long time, and because of that, there have been books and articles and TV shows about me, most filled with errors, speculative and wrong."
Okay Tiger, you're deservedly taking your chance to right all those wrongs. Do it properly and we'll admire you more than ever.