MARTIN SAMUEL: Is Woods really a tortured soul or just a lousy driver?

MARTIN SAMUEL: Is Tiger Woods really a tortured soul or is he just a lousy driver? Not every event in his life must be commandeered to peer into his soul

  • Tiger Woods was in a horrific car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning
  • The golfing legend, 45, broke his leg and shattered his ankle in the accident
  • Incident has seen American’s personal life placed under the microscope again
  • The narrative is that his career has been negatively impacted by his private life 

Tiger Woods had an accident. Sometimes there is such a thing. Not all actions have motives, no matter Freudian analysis. A cigar is sometimes just a cigar. A car crash is just a car crash.

Although not for Woods, it seems.

Every event in his life must be commandeered to peer into his soul. Is he happy, is he troubled, was he high, was he on pills, is this a cry for help, is it the end?

Tiger Wood’s personal life has come under the microscope again after his car crash on Tuesday

Woods underwent non life-threatening injuries following a horrific accident in Los Angeles 

Imagine what he could have achieved were it not for his father/ his private life/the girls/the drugs.

Then again, maybe he was in a rush, he was driving too fast, he misjudged the bend, he got distracted. Fortunately, no-one else was hurt. Sadly, he was.

Speculation about the athlete, we can understand. It would be a terrible pity if his competitive career concluded in this haphazard way. Yet the man? What has this to do with the man? From documentary makers to biographers and writers, Woods has lived his life amid ceaseless speculation about his motivations.

The same raddled mugshot is pulled out at every turn to make it appear his is an existence of misery. Yet what if it’s been a blast being the greatest golfer in the world? What if all of the issues that are supposed to add up to a tortured soul in a totalled SUV were, in fact, nothing of the sort?

That Woods’ repentance for past sins was necessary to satisfy his corporate backers but the way he lived was a choice, not a curse.

Commentators consider the player Woods might have been, the heights he could have reached, had he only led a more structured life. But who wants to sit alone in a hotel room, contemplating the 140 or so guys waiting to take a chunk out of you on the tee the next morning?

McIlroy called Woods’ Augusta triumph in 2019 the ‘greatest sporting comeback of all’

The company Woods sought might have taken that edge off. Mindy Lawton, a local waitress, revealed a call from Woods at 5.30am before leaving for a tournament.

‘He wanted that last piece of booty before he could go,’ she said, ‘to make him shoot better.’

This, apparently, was Tiger in hell. Yet was it? The reason his private life held such fascination when it fell apart was precisely because he had succeeded in staying guarded. He called his yacht Privacy.

And, as the great unravelling began with a car crash, great significance has been afforded this one, too. Yet maybe it was no more than it seems. A misjudgement, of space, of speed, of a crowded personal itinerary.

‘He’s not Superman,’ snapped Rory McIlroy, asked about Woods’ return. Indeed he’s not. He may just be a lousy driver. Sometimes, as Freud didn’t say, there’s no more to it than that.

Huddersfield’s blurred vision 

Danny Cowley rescued Huddersfield from relegation against the odds last season. His reward was the sack. 

‘We have a different vision of how our ambitions can be achieved,’ said owner Phil Hodgkinson. And what a vision that has turned out to be. Cowley averaged 1.38 points per game across 36 games. 

His successor, Carlos Corberan, is averaging 1.12. Huddersfield are 19th, seven points ahead of Rotherham in the relegation zone, who have two games in hand. Corberan is lucky that Sheffield Wednesday have suffered a points deduction and Wycombe were quickly divorced from the pack. 

This is not a season like the last one. Had Cowley achieved Corberan’s points aggregate last season, Huddersfield would have been relegated, in bottom place.

Carlos Corberan is having a significantly worse season than his predecessor did last term 

Maybe stop taking the Mick

The day Mick McCarthy was appointed, Cardiff were 15th in the Championship and 13 points behind Bournemouth, who were challenging for promotion. He knew the job details. ‘To not fall out of the bottom of the league,’ said McCarthy.

On Wednesday, Cardiff won at Bournemouth and took their berth in the play-off places, on the back of eight games undefeated and six straight wins. One hopes those Cardiff followers who denigrated McCarthy as a dinosaur and booed him into the job on social media feel just a little embarrassed. They knew nothing of the man, or his methods. 

The same goes at Ipswich, where fans besotted by the club they were, hounded McCarthy for prioritising Championship survival. His successors, working with a similarly parsimonious budget, plunged into League One and have set up camp mid-table.

Mick McCarthy has turned Cardiff’s season around and they are now in the play-off places 

Football is nothing without fans? Well, it depends. Could McCarthy have turned Cardiff around with a full house of dissent? Probably not. 

Would West Ham be fourth given that they lost their opening game of the season at home to Newcastle, and were then beaten away at Arsenal? Again, unlikely. 

The toxic atmosphere at the London Stadium may well have done for them. The turning point home game against Wolves on September 27, won 4-0, would have kicked off in an air of unrelenting negativity.

Still, credit to Newcastle, because even without fans inside St James’ Park a mood of restless pessimism and disapproval, particularly when results weren’t bad, has helped to suck the confidence from Steve Bruce’s team. 

Now they are in the relegation battle so eagerly anticipated. So, yes, it is hoped football has learned the importance of fans during the lockdown. Equally, some fans may have learned the value of not having a foot on the throat of the manager and his team all the time. It’s hard to breathe that way.

West Ham may well have benefited from the lack of supporters at their home matches 

Lesser-spotted Ederson emerges 

In a team playing as well as Manchester City, the goalkeeper doesn’t get much credit. It took Ederson to play a pass like a midfielder and set up a goal against Tottenham for him to make the headlines. 

No goalkeeper has been Footballer of the Year since Neville Southall in 1984-85; the professionals have acclaimed 42 straight years of outfield players since Peter Shilton in 1977-78. 

Ederson won’t get a mention this year, either, but a cameo against Borussia Monchengladbach demonstrated his worth to the team. In the final minute of the match, Hannes Wolf got free on goal. 

At that point it was approaching two-and-a-half hours since Ederson made a save in the competition. He hadn’t that night. He hadn’t since the first half of a game at Porto on December 1. 

Inactivity is problematic for goalkeepers. They get bored, they think they have to be involved, they go walkabout like Jordan Pickford. Equally, they switch off and are caught out. 

Ederson was immediately alive to Wolf’s danger and averted it. Monchengladbach did not receive a scarcely-deserved lifeline. Ederson won’t get great recognition for that because City were so dominant but he’s as vital to them as any forward.

Ederson demonstrated his worth to Manchester City against Borussia Monchengladbach

It’s quite simple — let the fans in as soon as we can

Given the various lockdown exit dates, there is the possibility fans might be inside stadiums for the final round of Premier League fixtures. Immediately, the integrity of the competition is questioned. It would create an unfair advantage for some clubs to have a home crowd on the last day. Fulham against Newcastle, for instance, or Leicester versus Tottenham.

What nonsense. For a start, how many matches are important by then? How many relegation or European places are still to be decided? Last season was an exception — three clubs into two Champions League slots, two out of three going down. Even so, that left six of 10 matches deciding no more than financial reward.

Also, a handful of games were played mid-season with limited crowds.

What happened to integrity then?

If fans can get in, get them in. That was the fairest and best logic earlier in the campaign and it remains the fairest and best logic now. If some grounds are fuller than others that’s pot luck, as it was before.

And fans do not guarantee results. If they did, no home matches would ever be lost. Fans are as capable of transmitting tension as confidence and they can’t overcome a superior performance. 

Between September 12, 2020 and January 13, 2021, West Ham were defeated in one home league game — the only one in which supporters attended the London Stadium, against Manchester United.

Paul Pogba was exceptional, the visitors were the better side and no earnest support could outplay that. So nobody is going to get relegated or finish top four because of a half-full arena on May 23. It is still the 37 prior matches that will have greatest impact.

Supporters should be allowed back into stadiums as soon as it legal for them to do so

‘Pardew’s law’ is still the English manager’s curse

Ralph Hasenhuttl cried in the technical area the night Southampton beat Liverpool. That was January 4. Southampton were in the top six, four points off the leaders. Since then, they have taken one point from a possible 24 and conceded 24 goals in eight games, including a 9-0 defeat at Manchester United.

Yet Hasenhuttl was discussed as potentially the next manager of Chelsea before Thomas Tuchel’s appointment. He is still considered to be doing a good job. He came 11th last season and it was viewed as an achievement. Imagine if he were English. 

Alan Pardew took Newcastle, a team that have more commonly spent seasons fighting relegation, to fifth in the league. 

Then he did a little dance to celebrate his Crystal Palace team going ahead in an FA Cup final which they subsequently lost — to Manchester United, so no surprise really — and could never live it down. He’s working in Bulgaria at the moment. He probably won’t get a job back here again.

Hasenhuttl’s a good manager. That performance against Liverpool was outstanding. If he was English, though, let’s just say that night in January would be viewed rather differently. He’d be a meme not a magician.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s performance would be under more scrutiny were he an English manager

Maybe social media can help out Ozil now  

When Mesut Ozil joined Fenerbahce the club was top of Turkey’s Super Lig. He made his debut on February 2, during a run of eight wins and a draw. Fenerbahce had last lost on December 19, to Gazisehir. 

Since when they have dropped six points of nine, including a home defeat to Galatasaray, and have slumped to third. No goals and no assists for Ozil complete a miserable start.

Ozil has a long-term contract with plenty of time to improve. Equally, there could be many reasons for Fenerbahce’s mid-season blip. It would not be the first time, however, that long periods of inactivity prove no preparation for a return to high-level football. Ozil has spent many months being smart on social media. Maybe he can draw on those.

Former Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has had a miserable start to life at Fenerbahce

Granit Xhaka says abuse on social media will kill football if it is not prevented. It won’t. It will kill social media. 

For, over time, every sensible, adult person will gradually withdraw, every responsible corporate interest will not want its brand associated with such vileness and the forum will be left to the abusers, the trolls, the semi-literates, and it will wither. Football existed before monkey emojis and will survive beyond them, too. They are an unnecessary evil.

Right move for German Jamal

Jamal Musiala has made his decision. He’s German. To be fair, it always seemed that way, what with him being born in Germany, to a German mother and Bayern Munich being his club. 

Musiala was raised and schooled in England, however, and represented age group teams here, giving rise to the hope he might declare for this country. 

And if he did and if he felt English, that would be good, too. But he’s German. So that should be his national team.

Jamal Musiala has chosen to represent Germany and it should come as no surprise 

Sorry, Angelino wasn’t up to it 

Angelino looks a useful player at RB Leipzig. He didn’t at Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has a very specific vision for his full backs and Angelino couldn’t deliver it.

He wants his full backs to play as Joao Cancelo does, as if auditioning to understudy Kevin De Bruyne, and Angelino wasn’t up to that.

He says Guardiola ‘killed’ him, but he did not — no more than Jose Mourinho killed Mo Salah or De Bruyne. They just weren’t up to the job at the time. 

They would have been later in their careers. Maybe the same will be true of Angelino, too. Yet we all saw him in the shirt of Manchester City and Guardiola wasn’t wrong.

Angelino looks a useful player at RB Leipzig but he wasn’t good enough for Manchester City

Why Walsh paid for night shift with Gazza…

Reading my colleague Ian Ladyman’s wonderful interview with Paul Walsh last weekend brought back memories of Tottenham’s FA Cup run in 1991. They were due to play Portsmouth in the fifth round at Fratton Park.

At the team hotel on the morning of the game, one of the senior players came to manager Terry Venables, worried. 

‘Bad news,’ he said. ‘Gazza’s been up half the night playing squash. He said he couldn’t sleep.’ Venables thought for a while. ‘Who was he playing against?’ he asked.

That afternoon, he dropped Paul Walsh. He played Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne scored both goals in a 2-1 win. Gascoigne could handle his insomnia and restlessness, Venables reasoned. His opponent couldn’t.

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