Over the last few years, golf fans have been served a rigid narrative of the Tiger Woods Comeback Story. Even the most casual sports fan has tasted it: a 45-year-old star golfer overcomes his well-documented troubles on and off the course to win the 2019 Masters and continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s Majors record. HBO’s Tiger reminds viewers of just how Icarian his fall from the greatest heights of sports superstardom really was, and how uncertain his return to his previous dominance remains.
The two-part documentary attempts the impossible task of covering the complete story of Tiger Woods in just a few hours. Through archival footage and new interviews, the film explores the enormous expectations of Woods’s parents, who willed him to conquer a sport and change the world; his relationship with race as a black athlete dominating an overwhelmingly white sport; and the contrast between his public posture as a walking brand, one that generated $100 million in revenue every year, and his hidden struggles with a life deprived of privacy. Fresh light is shed on the loss of Woods’s father—a loving but flawed parent whose chronic infidelity trickled down to his son—and his many coping mechanisms: sex, drugs, competition, and extreme exercise including military training. The movie appropriately feels like a time lapse of a long, rough voyage across choppy waters.