Golf can be very therapeutic sometimes. I was going through some stuff several years ago, a fairly tough bout of depression, and just kinda lost my way a bit with my attitude and my relationships with those very close to me. I wasn't a very happy person at the time, although I tried my best to put on my happy face and pretend like everything was great. I've no idea where the depression came from... it just showed up one day from out of nowhere and spent the next several months worrying myself to death about everything.
But one thing I never lost enjoyment in was golf. The pursuit of becoming a better player, the distractions that the pursuit provided with goals and committed effort, the ability to spend time with friends on occasion - all of those things helped me immensely during that period of my life. Because if golf teaches us anything - it's the often-times difficult lesson of acceptance, and then the self-learning of figuring out a way to overcome. And those who've ever gone to the golf course with life situations weighing them down, zapping energy and misplacing focus - they're familiar with the enormous challenges when their hearts and minds both just aren't into it. Golf, or shall I say at the very least the pursuit of good golf, is seldom attainable if both the heart and mind are elsewhere.
Everyone processes emotions differently. I will say, however, that stress and tension brought on by something in one's personal life - it can certainly have an enormous influence on one's health. And not just emotionally, but sometimes even more so physically. Part of my history of back problems can be clearly traced all the way back to my younger days of overly stressful training in the military. Not that I was out of shape, not that my body couldn't physically endure that level of uptempo lifestyle, but the lack of sleep combined with just outright stress that came with the job. Those back muscles just don't relax on command... one has to be in a somewhat relaxed state of mind before the body can function accordingly, before the muscles can work properly, distributing the load. Of course - a 40-pound rucksack on my back and standard-issue combat boots certainly didn't help!
Now I obviously don't exactly know how Woods processed the humiliation that came with the scandal, other than the fact that he took an extended period of time away from the game. How he processed that stuff emotionally, how he struggled to accept it and deal with it, the impact that all of that stress at that time in his life had on his physical being... I'm gonna guess that when Tiger came back that April to play his first round back at the Masters - he was probably pretty nervous. Anxious might be a better word. That emotional anxiety was very real. It's part of the reason why it took him several months to get rid of some of the worst golf swings we'd ever seen him make up to that point in his career. Every time he teed it up - a part of him had to confront that enormous shame that he brought upon himself. When you're not focused 100% on golf and you're worried about something else - you're not going to play well. When you're tense and worried about stuff, about how people might suddenly perceive you differently - it's incredibly difficult to relax and let the golf muscles work like they're supposed to. Not that he was never not under the microscope from about 1997 onward, but now he was under it for entirely different reasons.
So although I do wholeheartedly agree that his incredibly hard swinging with driver throughout his career was likely the root cause of his future injuries, and then add the enormous physical demand on his body that came through his sudden military Spec-Ops ambitions, or his desire to become this muscle-bound stud muffin... I still believe that the stress he put himself under back in late '09 through much of 2010 because of his personal life also played a significant role in his injuries.
The other thing, the last thing worth noting... I dealt with my bout of depression in my life a lot simpler because I didn't (to my knowledge anyway) do anything to cause the funk I was going through. I wasn't showing up at the club every day of my life worrying and wondering what other people were thinking about me, how I came up short in their perceptions of me, etc. All I knew was I sure as hell didn't deserve it! That blamelessness helped me rationalize things, helped me figure out a way to get through it.
Woods didn't have that luxury those first several months back. He brought all of that chaos upon himself, so the only rational way he could deal with it was to own it. And not only was he dealing with a changing public perception (from his enormous status as this superstar golfer with a great life) he was also dealing with a marriage in shambles and the obvious distractions that would also create a sure cause for any normal human being to struggle with focus and commitment to swinging a golf club confidently, in front of millions of people watching and waiting for him to either do something great, like usual, or fail miserably.
Golf, in essence, was my distraction and my therapy. For Tiger - golf was torture, a job that he didn't want at that time because of the circumstances involved. But the only way he could move beyond that was to deal with it and get back to trying to be the player he used to be. And he did for a brief period for about 18 months, albeit nary a major win during that time. Now, all these years later, he's moved on emotionally... but physically - he's basically finished. He said himself that he's only one more serious episode away from retiring, because he's basically done everything possible to fix the things that have broken down on him.
But... he'll probably safely hold that second spot on the majors win list for a long, long while. And I'm not sure we'll ever see another player, in our lifetimes anyway, who will win 79 tournaments. Dude could sure golf his ball, the most dominant player I ever saw. And I'm thankful that I was into the sport to be able to witness it. I don't have to love the guy to still be able to appreciate just how great a player he was all those years.