‘The Second Life of Tiger Woods’ by Michael Bamberger (2020)

Tiger Woods is probably the most famous sportsman in the world. His fall from grace was one of the most watched, talked about and written about stories in sports.

From his car crash in 2009 which unleashed the floodgates, he continued to struggle until he hit a nadir on Memorial Day in 2017. Fresh from yet more spinal surgery, Woods was arrested for driving under the influence. It seemed inevitable that Woods’ life as a golfer was as good as over. How wrong that assumption proved to be.

In The Second Life of Tiger Woods, GOLF magazine senior writer, Michael Bamberger, draws upon his extensive contact book to document Woods fall from grace and subsequent triumphant return to win the 2019 Masters.

While the narrative jumps back and forward in time quite often, the main focus of the book is on the most recent few years of Woods’ life. Those who have followed Tiger’s closely will know a lot of what is written about his early years. The book is at its strongest when its detailing the incident around his DUI and his subsequent return to glory.

The book does take two remarkably long digressions on whether Woods had gotten away with rules infractions in breach of the spirit of the game and the difficult to cover question of performance-enhancing drugs. The rules infractions material is a overdone especially as I don’t buy into the sanctimonious “meaning of golf” stuff. It’s a game and all games have cheaters.

The material on PEDs is by necessity circumstantial. Bamberger investigates rumours and draws a connection between Woods and the people who helped Alex Rodriquez to dope. It’s hardly a smoking gun but its admirable that the book tried to cover a topic often left untouched.

Emotional scenes at the end of the 2019 Masters

The meat of the book is Tiger’s redemption story. It’s a story of overcoming injuries and personal struggles, of maturing and becoming a more rounded person both in and outside of work. Bamberger is wisely cautious though to warn that no one really knows Woods and we should be careful of too easily believing he is a changed man.

Bamberger has a fairly unique and colourful writing style and the book is often times a vehicle for his wit and insight as much as reporting of Woods’ life. This is understandable given Tiger didn’t agree to be interviewed for the book so it does unfortunately lack Tiger’s own perspective. I do think the book needed a tighter edit though with the quality writing and insight getting lost at times.

All in all its an entertaining and interesting addition to the ever growing library of books on Tiger Woods.

The 2019 Masters Official Film

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