Anyone who has followed golf over the last several years has heard the phrase: “Tiger’s on the prowl,” meaning that, in a four day golf tournament, late on Saturday, Tiger (Eldrick Tont) Woods is catching up to the leader. His winning record after leading at 54 holes in a 72-hole event is phenomenal.

Now we know that Tiger prowls in other ways, as well. He has all but admitted to having extramarital affairs with one or more women. In 2004 Tiger Woods married Swedish model Elin Nordegran, with whom he has two children. Ms. Nordegran was introduced to Woods by fellow PGA golfer Jesper Parnevik.

When Tiger, age 33, burst onto the pro golf scene, after being a three-time U.S. amateur champion, he not only won; he dominated. He won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes and the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes. To date, Tiger has won 71 Professional Golf Association tour events. His closest rival is Phil Mickelson, five years older, who has won 37 tour events. Tiger and Phil draw large galleries when they are competing well in the same event.

Golf is one of the last gentleman’s games. It has a genteel character to it. The commentators generally speak better English than in most sports. Players joke politely with one another. They don’t trash talk, on microphones, at least, or get into fights. The game is played at a leisurely pace, even when millions of dollars are at stake. Players take their time lining up shots, especially when putting. When the ball goes out of bounds, players and officials discuss at length what options are available for the next shot. The galleries are characteristically helpful and quiet when instructed to be so. Once when Tiger’s ball landed behind a large rock, fans worked together to move the rock. Players walk from hole to hole on manicured green swards with beautiful trees and flowers, stone bridges over babbling brooks. Some scenic courses are located by the ocean. You could spend your entire life at the Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, where the Masters is played each year. Golf is a slice of heaven on earth.

When Tiger arrived, legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas were still playing competitively, albeit mostly at the senior level, and Byron Nelson, the grand old man of golf, still held court at his Byron Nelson Classic. They recognized the young genius and welcomed him into their fold. He looked like a gentleman and talked their game. He knew the history of the game and its famous golf courses. He had supposedly learned stern character lessons from his Vietnam Veteran father. He seemed to possess an inner calm, perhaps from his Asian mother. They accepted his energetic fist pump; let the man show his strength. Let Tiger roar. He flashed a ready smile. He was not a gate crasher; he was one of them.

Tiger stands atop the kingdom of golf and a personal empire built from winnings and endorsements. Engineers labor to please him with sophisticated clubs and balls designed with space age technology. Ultra slow motion cameras and swing coaches analyze his swing and back swing. He is continually working on his swing, putting, every aspect of the game; training, pumping iron daily.

Then came November 27, 2009, when Mr. Woods drove his black Cadillac Escalade into a hedge, fire hydrant then a tree, near his Orlando, Florida mansion, in the wee hours of the morning. Accounts of the incident differ; my favorite is that Tiger was found snoring, barefoot on the street.

We understand, though not always condone, “transgressions,” as Tiger puts it, in our celebrities, sports and otherwise. Tiger was apparently known on the golf circuit to be a hound. He was a closet cheater, and accepted all the same by his peers. There are undoubtedly other hounds on tour. What Woods has now done is to bring tabloid headlines to the genteel game of golf, a roar not of his choosing but which he is responsible for. Every day the world awakes to new bombshells and cutie pics of alleged mistresses. The kind of stuff you associate with football players and loud sports. Booty calls. The latest news is that his wife has moved back to Sweden, and the mistress count has risen to seven, maybe ten, all white. He had once said in a TV interview that he loved his wife Elin “with all my heart.” People believed him.

It remains to be seen how fans and pro golf will treat the Prince of Tees when he crawls out from under his privacy rock and walks the green swards again, as he someday will. Jesper Parnevik has already said publicly that he thought Tiger was a “better sort of man than that.” Which must hurt. Jack Nicholas said “It’s none of my business.” Will galleries boo him? Faint camera clicks have been known to throw him into a cursing fit. He always had a temper, tossing clubs for his caddy to retrieve after a poor shot. Will family men like Michelson look away when asked about Tiger? How long will big name sponsors support him?

Tiger Woods once had the world on a string. He had us right where he wanted us. Now Tiger is going to hear the sound of unfriendly fire. Tiger Woods is going to have his Vietnam moment, maybe his long war.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.