Tiger free? Hardly

Tiger Woods can go on the prowl again. He’s a free man.

By that I mean he is no longer married.

The once greatest golfer on the planet and his wife, Elin, quietly announced yesterday that they had ended their marriage. It was the final chapter in the bombshell story that exploded last Thanksgiving when Woods careened down his driveway in his SUV and promptly slammed into a fire hydrant.

What followed was a months-long meltdown the likes of which our celebrity-sotted atmosphere has never seen. A parade of women came forward to claim they had affairs with Woods. He checked himself into a clinic to be treated for sex addiction. Then he went on TV to acknowledge his problems.

After being away from the game for months, Woods finally returned to the links for the Masters.

But make no mistake. This is not the same man who climbed into that SUV last Thanksgiving.

Part of the mystique that surrounded Woods as a golfer ended about the time his SUV hit that fire hydrant.

He was superman. Most of his opponents were defeated before they ever stepped up to the first tee.

In that respect, I would compare him to Mike Tyson in his prime. You could see the fear in his opponents’ eyes. Most of them were looking for a place to fall down.

Woods has yet to come close to being the golfer he was before he became fodder for the tabloids. Ironically, he probably played better when he first came back. His recent play shows no inkling of the dominant player he once was.

More than that, Woods’ persona has been fundamentally changed.

At least it has for me. I used to be the guy’s biggest fan. That’s because he was mesmerizing. He simply did things on a golf course no one had ever seen before. I play golf, and not particularly well. I have no idea what game Tiger was playing when he was at his best.

And that’s the problem. He’s no longer at his best. Not even close.

Now he is something I once thought was not possible. Woods is just another guy on the PGA Tour.

Maybe that will change next year. Maybe Woods will come back better than ever.

To be honest, I don’t really care.

Today Tiger Woods is a free man. But the truth is he will never be free.
His name now will forever be stained with an asterisk.

There will always be whispers every time his name is mentioned.

My guess is that Tiger Woods is not washed up. He will win again on the PGA Tour.

He just won’t be looked at the same way. At least not by me.