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Tiger Woods: Up Close in Thailand

Updated on May 10, 2013
Tiger Woods at the Johnny Walker Tournament
Tiger Woods at the Johnny Walker Tournament | Source

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Ball

“Have you seen my ball?” Tiger Woods asks me. I’ve been following him for a few hours, shooting pictures of the Johnny Walker Tournament for my publisher. I can’t seem to utter a word in reply and begin looking in earnest for Tiger’s ball. Of course, I am not alone in this quest. There are now at least 7 of us searching for the lost ball.

Earlier in the day, I had met Tiger’s father, Earl Woods, as he was riding around in a golf cart. The former Green Beret lieutenant colonel was all smiles and shook my hand with great strength when I introduced myself as “Prisana.”

“Are you a luk kreung?” he asked me incredulously, recognizing that my name was Thai. This was perhaps the millionth time, that I have been asked if I am half Thai, because although my mother is Thai and my father is Italian; I look 100% farang (foreign in Thai). Tiger on the other hand, definitely looks hasip-hasip (50-50 in Thai). Much easier than saying that he is: “25 percent Thai and 25 percent Chinese from his mom, Kutilda Woods; 25 percent African-American, 12.5 percent American Indian, and 12.5 percent Caucasian Dutch from his dad, Earl Woods” as stated in an article titled; Thais that Bind by Dave McKenna.

Earl Woods in Phuket
Earl Woods in Phuket | Source

A birdie, a bogie and an eagle. Oh my!

While I have occasionally visited a driving range, my knowledge of golf is practically nil. This was obvious to Tiger’s mother Kultilda (a Thailand native), when I asked her what a birdie was? She couldn’t have been more kind and patient, explaining to me about a birdie, a bogie and an eagle, as we sat on the greens, enjoying the Phuket sunshine and watching her son hit what appeared to be super-natural shots.

For three surreal days, I stalked Tiger and South Africa’s Ernie Els, along with some other fearsome competitors at the Blue Canyon Country Club, the hosts for the Johnny Walker Tournament in 1998. Those were the glory days, when writers following Tiger, didn’t fret about whether to title their article: Tiger Woods: Up Close in Thailand, or Tiger Woods: Up Close in Thailand, but not that close!


Tiger's Great Fall

I have to admit, I was quite saddened by Tiger’s fall from perfection, but not all that surprised. Phuket is a small island, and the coconut wire was hot on Tiger’s trail following his every movement back in 1998. One night, (according to Coconuts in the know) Tiger ventured into Phuket town to let a bit of his bad boy side out, and though the details were sketchy...when I asked him the following day; "Did you have fun last night in Phuket town?" Tiger about tripped over his golf club.

This was my second day following Tiger, and my nerves had calmed down immensely since the morning of his lost ball. He gave me a surprised smile and regained his cool stride, intrigued for a moment by my knowledge of his night out on the town.

I suppose what I find hard to believe is that it took so long for Tiger’s secret world to implode. Fourteen mistresses, is a hard number to manage. And yet, the world was none the wiser until that fateful day in Tiger’s life, when everything turned upside down.

The Tiger I witnessed back in 1998, was at the height of his game and his life, beating Ernie Els in an astonishing comeback, that amazed everyone watching; including Els, who had been leading the tournament. I’d like to think, that perhaps I had some small part in his comeback, due to an observation that I shared with his body guard on day two of the tournament.

Ernie Els
Ernie Els | Source

Zen and the Art of Tiger

Tiger was preparing himself for a swing, when the sound of bird calls distracted him to the point of obvious frustration. I wondered if Tiger had ever studied Zen before and asked his bodyguard to pass on a message to him about studying Zen to improve his game. The following day, his bodyguard told me that my message was relayed and that: “Tiger told me to throw you into the nearest pond.”

Tiger in the woods with Mike "Fluff" Cowan, his first caddie.
Tiger in the woods with Mike "Fluff" Cowan, his first caddie. | Source

Tiger Wood’s Second Coming

I think back to those moments of humour and awe and the less tabloid-rich life, that Tiger once lived. Before sadly losing his father, (who was also his best friend) to cancer in 2006; and before a large part of his private life unravelled for all the world to dissect. Perhaps the root of his disastrous great fall lies within this quote which his father shared with Sports Illustrated:

“He's the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don't know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He'll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."


The Chosen One

His father may have had the best of intentions, but what mere mortal could live up to being called, “The Chosen One?” The Tiger I watched for three glorious days, was an amazing athlete with supernatural abilities – but he was not The Chosen One. He was just a young man, who made Thailand proud and gave the world his best.

Conversely, in the nearly 2 years since Tiger was caught cheating with a harem of women, “he has lost four major sponsors, changed swing coaches, was divorced from his wife and now has cut loose his caddie, ” writes Doug Ferguson.

In spite of all these setbacks, I have no doubt that Tiger will make an impressive comeback, even more spectacular than on that unimaginable day in Phuket. He just needs to practice a bit more Zen and all will be right in his world.

Official Tiger Stalkers
Official Tiger Stalkers | Source


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    • traslochimilano profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      He is a great player forever and faced some hard moment in life.

    • Prisana profile imageAUTHOR

      Prisana Nuechterlein 

      9 years ago from Thailand and Colorado

      Hi Jeromeo, Dexter and Epigramman:

      Such a pleasure to read all of your comments! Epi: Thanks for reading my Tiger hub, especially since you are not a Tiger fan. I don't know Tiger well enough to judge whether he was sincerely sorry for his actions, or just "sorry that he got caught" but it's obvious that he has been greatly affected by the destruction of his marriage and the karmic boomerang of his actions.

      After writing this hub, I came upon an excellent New York Times article: Fall by Tiger Woods Is as Gripping as His Reign.

      "Woods is under more public stress than perhaps any other athlete we have seen," writes George Vecsey. "Golf can induce the staggers, but this is something else. Woods has to know that the public view of him ranges from a great athlete struggling to pull his life together to somebody who was shallow and smug before the downfall. Who really knows him? I swing back and forth in my opinion and probably so does a huge swath of the public. Does he feel it on every backswing? I bet he does.

      Can guilt or shame — or just what he thinks is bad luck and bad publicity — tear down an athlete before his time? I know enough about superstars with the morals of alley cats who have performed amazing feats of derring-do on the field or court, their private lives in tatters. No names mentioned.

      Tiger Woods has put himself in a slump the likes of which nobody has seen. He always had his father and skilled advisers, and his own confidence. Now he is alone."

    • epigramman profile image


      9 years ago

      ....I'm glad that Dexter is here - he's such a fabulous guy and you gotta check out his morning conversations with the Obamas ......

      ...but what a great story you have told us - I am so proud of you and all of your adventures in life and when you tell of us them in written form you then become a world class writer - bar none - I am so glad I found you and I sincerely hope many others do too. I will post this to my Facebook page once again with a direct link back here ......and for the record I never was a Tiger fan and I am certainly not now - he wasn't sorry he did it he was sorry he got caught and the only people he should be apologizing to is his immediate family - this guy even fired his caddie not too long ago - he will never regain his stride or momentum again - because golf is a funny game that way - but that week you saw him , as you say, he was ontop of the golf world and his prime and sadly , because I do respect him that way, he will never ever be the same again. great story - and lol - and I just gave you a great comment - lol - again - no wonder you're very very very good! Well let's just say - great like Tiger - was - and you're still in your prime!

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    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      9 years ago from United States

      Hi Prisana! It amazes me how many self-righteous people there are in the world. What Tiger did is no different than some of the major religious, political, athletic and social leaders - men and women - throughout history. None of us is perfect and many of us have made horrible decisions. He has handled himself well in the face of a sometimes wrongly opinionated public, in my opinion.

      Many of those that have criticized Tiger couldn't handle one of life's trials if it were simply the case of a broken toenail. We shouldn't judge others so harshly, lest we be judged just as harshly.

      I agree with you that Tiger will recover and that he will make an impressive comeback. He is a good man that fell prey to the trappings of fame. As he continues to put this behind him, we will watch him rise to his previous levels again.

      Great hub with great information and photos. Voted up, up and away!

    • Jeromeo profile image


      9 years ago from Little Rock

      I enjoyed your Hub and agree with your position on Tiger's comeback. Tiger had become bigger than golf, and that was not good form him or golf.

      And to the worshipers of the holder of the 18 major titles, it would be earth shattering for Tiger to eclipse his record. Lots of money behind that reasoning.

      So the golfing world and the public in general needs to be able to forget about Tiger for a while, but just when they have all but erased his name from their mental Rollerdex, he'll be blowing their minds again with his phenomial ability to get the ball in the cup.

    • Prisana profile imageAUTHOR

      Prisana Nuechterlein 

      9 years ago from Thailand and Colorado

      Hi Husky,

      I've probably over simplified Tiger's path to a great come back, but what I witnessed in Phuket was dare I say: nearly miraculous. Tiger's dad told him that he would "never meet another person as mentally tough" as him in his "entire life." I believe his father was wrong, because his ex-wife sure proved her mental toughness. Maybe you're right and Tiger has met his match. But hopefully he will learn from his mistakes and come back an even stronger Tiger!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Tiger has experienced a rapid downward spiral like no other athlete before him. Tragic but self inflicted. I am nowhere near as confident in a Tiger comeback as you are Prisana. Unfortunately I think his days of dominance are over. Interesting hub.


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