« Down there, the fish don’t know who I am. » The answer that Tiger Woods gave to his friend Amber Lauria when asked about his sudden fondness for scuba diving is the summary in a few words of the life of a unique sportsman, a universal star, a predestined child, a burdened man for a fame that almost destroyed him. Lauria is one of the many voices that for almost four hours divided into two chapters dissect the rise and fall of the best golfer of all time in Tiger, a documentary that HBO premieres this Monday. Produced by Oscar winner Alex Gibney and based on the unofficial biography of Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, Tiger is an accurate study of a until recently impenetrable environment, an introspection to try to understand the why of the succession of disasters that They took his life ahead of the injuries that erased him from the sports map and rejoiced in his resurrection. « Pressure », « burden » and « responsibility » are three words that come up often in the footage. Trying to understand how someone who is always expected to have something unique can survive the pressure put on him since he was two years old is part of the documentary’s impossible mission.
Family friends talk about his father Earl, that monstrous figure, but without whom we would not have had Tiger and Kultida, his mother, who taught him to be a « murderer. » One of the great virtues of this complex and choral film is that whenever there is something controversial, it treats it with distance and style. Another is that, in a television world that tends to excess and with material for 10 chapters, Tiger is composed of two concise stories, full of material, that do not decay at any time.
There are images of his sports feats, all carefully chosen to excite the fan and not tire anyone who does not care about this sport. Nick Faldo gracefully recounts how he ran him over at Augusta in 1997; Steve Williams, a caddy with whom he won 13 of his 15 majors, recounts what it was like to be with Tiger on the field and how he stopped talking forever from one day to the next. Because the documentary is also a count of corpses, of victims who have been left on the road. This is Dina Parr, his girlfriend in high school, wiped off the map by the Woods family with a letter. Also Rachel Uchitel, one of Tiger’s lovers, forever stigmatized by becoming the image of his sex addiction. His ex-wife is not there (neither is the coach who gave him the swing that made him invincible and who he fired from one day to the next), but they are understandable absences.
The experts and journalists interviewed go from amazement to amazement. Everyone believed that he was not going to recover from the social disaster, that after the back injuries that left him practically disabled he was not going to play again. There he has been, every time, with that forced smile Tiger Woods to deny the disbelievers. The documentary ends high, with the victory at Augusta in 2019, the biggest comeback by an athlete in history. Off-screen, it appears that Tiger hasn’t written his last episode yet.