DUBLIN, Ohio — When news of Tiger Woods’s DUI hit social media Monday morning, reactions from around the golf world — shock, sadness, moralizing — were mixed. At the Memorial Tournament here outside Columbus defending champion William McGirt was in the media center with his family admiring his photo being added to the wall of champions. McGirt’s framed snapshot now hangs 10 feet right of that of Woods, who has won at Muirfield Village a record five times.
McGirt was unaware of Woods’s arrest until a golf writer approached him with a certain mug shot.
“I honestly had to look at it for 10 seconds to figure out who it was,” McGirt said. “It didn’t even look like the same person.”
That person once seemed indomitable, racking up 79 wins on the PGA Tour, the last of them coming four years ago a two-hour drive north of here in Akron at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Just as it is difficult for golf fans to reconcile that version of Woods with the 2017 edition, so too is it difficult for Woods’s peers. McGirt wasn’t the only Tour pro to be taken aback by the news.
Said Harold Varner III: “It was for sure surprising to see, but everyone has their battle or hiccup and all of [Tiger’s] are videoed and blasted on the media. That’s just the way it is — it sucks for him.”
Indeed Woods is under a far hotter spotlight than any other golfer and just about any other athlete, which is not lost on his fellow pros. Adam Scott said it would unwise to overreact to the DUI and what it might mean for Woods in the long term.
“We can’t say Tiger’s never going to play again because this happened on Monday and his has life spiraled out of control,” Scott said. “We don’t want to see that. Hopefully it’s all right with him.”
Of course despite his fabulous wealth and fame all has not been all right with Woods for some time: the sex scandal in 2009, the myriad of injuries, the four back surgeries in four years, the chip yips, the endless questions about his future.
“You cannot give me every penny Tiger has made in his lifetime, tax-free, to trade places with him for one day,” McGirt said. “I would not want to subject myself or my family to that because it’s constant public scrutiny, public ridicule.”
For Columbus resident Jason Day, who’s built a strong rapport over the past few years with Woods, Tiger’s DUI was tough to process.
“To see Tiger and see that picture … it’s not the news you want to see,” Day told GOLF.com. “But I’m glad that everyone was OK. It would have been bad if he would have hit someone. But obviously, hopefully he gets the right dosage of medication before he has to drive or anything like that.”
Day said he is hopeful that Woods learns from this recent setback, as Day, like so many others players on Tour, drew inspiration from Woods. Day said he had not yet talked with Woods as of Tuesday afternoon.
This week’s event at Muirfield Village is hosted by Jack Nicklaus, whose records Woods has been chasing since the day he joined the PGA Tour. Nicklaus expressed empathy for Woods during his press conference Tuesday.
“Obviously I don’t really know what happened, what went on,” Nicklaus said. “But I feel bad for Tiger. Tiger is a friend. He’s been great for the game of golf and I think he needs all our help, and we wish him the best.”