Somehow, in the first news cycle after his DUI arrest, Tiger Woods wanted it made clear that alcohol was not involved when he was found asleep at the wheel of his black Mercedes at 2 a.m. Monday morning on a road called Military Trail in Jupiter, Fla., the car still running according to the police report, two tires flat, a taillight out, Woods not only unable to perform a field sobriety when the cops woke him up, but apparently not knowing where he was.
Somehow, though, in a statement he gave on Monday, Woods was fixed on having it out there that alcohol was not involved, as if somehow that made this less of an offense, or made him less of the danger that he so clearly was when the cops saw his car stopped in the right lane on Military Trail. It did not make him less of a danger, or make you wonder what kind of driving he was doing before his car finally came to a stop.
Everybody knows that the first time Tiger Woods had trouble in a car in the middle of the night, early on the morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, the night everything began to come apart for him -- career, image, marriage -- it was reported that Woods had taken Ambien to help him sleep that night. It is one of the reasons, we were told, that he was found asleep outside his car when police arrived, after his Escalade had hit a fire hydrant and a tree on its way down his driveway, and ended up with some of its windows smashed, presumably by his wife at the time.
Now Woods, according to the most recent police report, tells the cops who found him that he is taking Solarex, Vicodin, Torix, Vioxx, even though he says he has not taken Vioxx lately. In Woods' original statement, he blames what happens on a reaction to some combination of these drugs.
Maybe it is. Maybe the root problem here is the pain with which he has lived for years because of a bad back, even though he wrote on his web site last week about successful back surgery in April:
"I haven't felt this good in years."
Maybe it is all relative for him, after years of chronic pain. Maybe the issue for Tiger Woods, and a serious one, is painkillers. It is even worth considering, because of what has happened to his body and his career and what privacy he has left after the parade of women that began not long after Thanksgiving in 2009, that depression might be an issue as well. Only he knows about that. Only he knows if he does have a problem with painkillers. Only he knows where he had been before the cops found him last week, where he was going, on the night when he was an accident waiting to happen.
"Woods stated that he was coming from LA California from golfing. Woods stated that he did not know where he was. Woods had changed his story of where he was going and where he was coming from. Woods asked how far from his house he was. It should be noted that Woods was heading southbound away from Hobe Sound. Takes several prescriptions."
Also from the report:
"Could not maintain starting position. Missed heel to toe each time. Stepped off line several times. Used arms for balance. Did not return. Explained instructions and again did not maintain starting position, stepped [off] line, used arms for balance, also stopped walking to steady self."
Of course, this is the same as being under the influence of alcohol, and being as much of a threat to himself and anybody else on Military Trail at that time of the night. But in his first statement after this incident, Woods really did say, "I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved." Only that does not make this a lesser crime. It does not make Woods any less of a threat than he so clearly was. The fact that he blew a clean breathalyzer does not somehow insulate him, or protect his brand, or change the fact that Tiger Woods was in this kind of bad shape behind the wheel of his car before the car finally did come to a stop. Here is what Jack Nicklaus said on Tuesday afternoon when he discussed Woods in the run-up to Jack's Memorial Tournament:
"[Tiger] needs our help."
Jack also said this:
"Tiger, I always thought, was going to break my record. Did I enjoy watching him play? Absolutely. Did I enjoy every time Tiger did something, my name was mentioned right beside it? It kept me relevant. It was as good for me as it was for him."
Jack Nicklaus won his last major championship at the 1986 Masters, at the age of 46. Tiger Woods is 41 now, and last won a major, his 14th, at the age of 32, in 2008. He did it playing with a broken bone in his leg. The leg, and the time off he had to take because of that injury, turned out to be the least of his problems. Now he has had four back surgeries since 2014. There were various other surgeries for him before that, what sometimes feels like a world's record number of surgeries for somebody playing a non-contact sport.
For years we heard about his training regimen. We learned about his fascination with Navy SEALs, and getting himself into the kind of shape that enabled him to train with them. In the end, none of that has seemed to help him very much as his body has broken down on him the way it has since the last time he played like a star, in 2013, when he still had enough game to win five tournaments and be named the PGA Tour's Player of the Year.
Now Woods is in the news again, in the worst sort of way, because of the condition in which the police in Jupiter found him, heading away from where his home was, apparently uncertain of where that home was.
From the police report, detailing the moment when Woods was asked to recite the alphabet:
"When asked if he understood the directions he states, 'Yes, recite the national anthem backwards.' After several times of explaining instructions, he completes the task."
The only good news here for Tiger Woods is that there was not a serious accident in Jupiter, or a tragic one. He was driving under the influence, whether it was the influence of alcohol or not, even at a time of the night when alcohol is so often part of the story. He should never have been behind the wheel of a car. He was lucky, and any other driver in the area that night was lucky. Jack Nicklaus was clearly not speaking in a judgmental way on Tuesday, because that has never been Jack's way. He was clearly speaking from his heart. And was right. Tiger needs help.