IT was a mug shot that was worth a thousand words. At first glance, the police photo of Tiger Woods taken after his recent DUI arrest in Florida was shocking enough, with his bleary, unfocused eyes and bloated, haggard appearance. The picture, however, showed more than a man under the influence — it captured a onetime legend in free fall, his life unraveling in the most public way possible.
According to police reports, in the early morning hours of May 29, officers found Tiger, 41, asleep at the wheel of his $220,000 Mercedes sedan, which was stopped on a road eight miles from his home in Jupiter Island, Fla., with its engine running — and with “fresh damage” that included two flat tires, mangled bumpers and a busted taillight. When police woke him up and asked where he was coming from, Tiger, whose speech was “extremely slow and slurred,” said he was in Los Angeles, but then admitted “he had no idea” where he was. After failing to pass sobriety tests — he was unable to walk straight or stand on one leg, and when asked if he understood instructions to recite the alphabet, replied, “not to sing the national anthem backwards” — Tiger was arrested on suspicion of DUI, placed in handcuffs and taken to the Palm Beach County Jail.
A breath test showed no alcohol in his system, but the police report indicated Tiger was taking four prescription drugs, three of which he said he may have taken at once. In a statement issued after his release later that day, Tiger blamed his impairment on “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications,” adding that he didn’t realize the mix “had affected me so strongly.”
His remarks were too little, too late to repair a reputation already sullied by scandal. The arrest brought back memories of his infamous car crash in November 2009, when Tiger drove his car into a fire hydrant outside his Windermere, Fla., home after his then wife, Elin Nordegren (with whom he has two children, Sam, 9, and Charlie, 8), had chased him out of the house in a blind rage when she discovered he had been having an affair with New York party girl Rachel Uchitel. In the weeks that followed, a stream of alleged mistresses came forward, exposing Tiger as a serial womanizer who had bedded everyone from waitresses to strippers to porn stars.
Tiger later made a tearful, televised apology and entered rehab for sex addiction. But his world was shattered, and it hasn’t been easy to pick up the pieces. Elin, 37, divorced him in 2010, and his nearly three-year relationship with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn ended in 2015 amid new whispers of his infidelity. Tiger has also been plagued by injuries that have crippled his golf career — he’s had four operations on his back since 2013, the most recent in April. In a blog post written five days before his arrest, Tiger was optimistic about his recovery, saying he “never felt better” and that “the long-term prognosis is positive.”
Given the latest turn of events, however, Tiger may be staring down a bleak future. “Even before this happened, friends were worried about his physical and emotional health,” a source says. “He just seems to be a broken man. Everyone’s hoping that Tiger will somehow pull himself together. He’s fallen so far, it’s hard to imagine that things can get any worse.”