Tiger Woods almost left golf to pursue military career

Wright Thompson wrote a long-form piece published on ESPN on Thursday, detailing portions of the secret life of Tiger Woods, and the desires, fantasies, and ultimately antecedents that led to his life and career in golf spiraling out of control.

His column is centered around the death of Tiger’s father, Earl, and details a love-torn relationship and a destructive likeness that grew after he’d passed.

Tiger’s connection with Earl – a former member of the green berets – shifted away from the sport he was dominating to an obsessive fixation on the Navy Seals. Thompson details the authentic and the veritably dangerous military training Woods took part in and successfully kept secret from many of those close to him. And also a proclivity to one day leave golf behind.

Here’s a snippet from his piece:

An idea began to take hold, a dream, really, one that could destroy the disconnect Tiger felt in his life, completely killing off the character he played in public. Maybe he could just disappear into the shadow world of special operations. He mentioned his plans to people around him, one by one. He pulled over a car at a tournament once and told Steve Williams he wanted to join the Navy. He told Haney he thought it would be cool to go through training. Once, Carroll had to talk him down via text message, according to someone present for the exchange, because Tiger wanted to quit golf and join the Navy. There’s only one reason to run 4 miles in pants and combat boots. This wasn’t some proto-training to develop a new gear of mental toughness. “The goal was to make it through BUD/S,” says a former friend who knew about the training. “It had nothing to do with golf.”

“It was very, very serious,” the friend says. “If he had had a hot two years and broken (Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record), he would have hung up his clubs and enlisted. No doubt.”

Thompson writes that Tiger’s body began to wilt beneath his arduous training, leading to multiple back surgeries and other procedures that have essentially ended his competitive career. He even raised the question that Tiger’s torn ACL – which he said was ruptured while jogging – may have been suffered while working simulations in the “Kill House” with Navy Seals.

The piece ranges from his relationship with Michael Jordan, his introverted awkwardness around women, the free-fall skydiving license he got during the golf season, and fatherhood.

Have a read over at ESPN. It’s well worth it.

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