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Tiger Woods became the greatest golfer then lost it all. Now he’s taking a swing at a comeback

All eyes are on Tiger Woods as he's set to compete in his first Masters tournament since 2015 -- a comeback many thought would never happen. The youngest player ever to win the coveted green jacket and one of the greatest athletes of his era, his career also took an ugly fall. His story is told in a new best-selling biography by co-author Armen Keteyian, who joins Jeffrey Brown for an interview.

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  • John Yang:

    Now to golf and another step in Tiger Woods' improbable comeback. It was an up-and-down day for Woods, who ended one over par after the opening day of the Masters Tournament.

    Jeffrey Brown has this look at a new bestselling biography of Woods.

    It's the latest edition to the "NewsHour" Bookshelf.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    The roar of the crowds on the way to a top-five finish last month. The club twirls. The signature fist pumps. It's a Tiger Woods many, including Woods himself, thought may never be seen again.

  • Tiger Woods:

    If you would've asked me at the beginning of the year that I would had the chance to win two golf tournaments, that's — that would have been — I would've taken that in a heartbeat. If I can play with no pain, and I can feel like I can make golf swings, I will figure it out.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    All eyes are now on the 42-year-old, as he competes in his first Masters Tournament since 2015.

    It was back in 1997 on the famous Augusta, Georgia, course that a 21-year old Woods first made his mark on golf history, becoming the youngest player ever to win the coveted Green Jacket, by a staggering 12 strokes.

    He would become the most dominant golfer and one of the greatest athletes of his era. But in 2009 came the ugly fall, a Tiger Woods few knew, a public admission of rampant infidelity, divorce, and a break from golf.

    Injuries also took a toll, before major back surgery last year helped start his comeback.

    The larger life story is now told in a new biography, "Tiger Woods," by veteran sports journalists Jeff Benedict, and Armen Keteyian, who joins me now from New York.

    Armen, it's nice to talk to you again.

    First, remind us of Tiger Woods the great, maybe the greatest. What allowed him to be so?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Well, he had the entire package.

    He was the most powerful golfer ever really to walk the face of the earth when he stepped on the tour. His swing speed, his ball striking ability, his mind — Tiger himself said, my greatest weapon was my creative genius on the golf course.

    And then you match that with almost this indomitable will, a willingness to crush his opponents, and really take the heart out of his opponents time and time again on the golf course. It was the complete package.

    And then you add in the charisma and his captivating personality on the course.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Yes.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    And he literally was unbelievable and unbeatable.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    You trace a lot of this to his early life, the parents who shaped him, sometimes drove him. Many remember that father-son embrace in 1997.

    So it's a loving relationship, but also one that in some ways warped him.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    No question, Jeff.

    I mean, it's a very complicated relationship between Tiger and his parents. The family dynamic drives the entire narrative of our book. You could argue that he was programmed to be a prodigy by his parents, both good and bad. But there's a cost associated with that.

    And that's one of the things I think the book does so well. It examines the family dynamic in a way both pro and con, but it also raises serious questions about the price of fame and the cost of genius.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Exactly.

    Well, we all in the public learned about this other side of Tiger Woods only in 2009. But you're showing that somehow it was always there, but always hidden and quite guarded.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    No question. He was a very private person.

    This was a shy, awkward, socially awkward child who burst onto the scene with almost unimaginable fame, extreme fame and fortune. And he was overwhelmed by it for quite a while. And he became very isolated. Then he became very distrustful of the media.

    And then he began to enjoy all the pleasures of the fame and fortune. But then there was this other side of him that really is rather unlikable for the longest period of time, a great entitlement, very little gratitude and grace towards other people who were doing things for him.

    And, literally, Jeff, as we're writing this book, there's a whole arc obviously to the book, but there's points in time when Jeff and I are writing it where we're having trouble writing it because he's not a very likable person during a long stretch of his life.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Yes.

    When the fall happened, as you looked at it, how far down do you think he went psychologically, just life — in his life?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Put it into context in terms of 2009. I mean, his epic fall from grace was fodder for The New York Post for 21 straight days, a record 21 straight days, more time than after 9/11.

    He was on every cable television station. It was the beginning of TMZ and the blowup of social media. It was an absolute humiliating experience for Tiger. And it stayed with him for a long period of time. And it added to his distrust of the media.

    And then, on top of that, he has a divorce. He goes through a very serious, long-term problem with injuries that require four back surgeries, and an opiate problem, you could say an opiate addiction. I mean, he has had — virtually every aspect of his life is Shakespearian.

    And that's what's so interesting about it. But, on the other hand, team Tiger and his management people have protected Tiger. The driving question for us in this book was two things, really. Who is Tiger Woods? And that's a question that his people have protected for basically 20 years.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Yes.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    And what's the price of genius? And that's a complicated answer.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    And yet here we are, on the cusp of a Masters where Tiger Woods somehow is among the favorites. You have sponsors talking again about maybe signing up with him.

    A new narrative? Where do you think we are?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    I think you're absolutely right.

    Some things haven't changed, but Tiger has changed. He's healthy. Emotionally, he's in the best spirits and shape of his life. He was engaged with fans. He was more outgoing. He's more — he's more human than he's ever been.

    And I think that's what makes this Masters, the rise and the retribution right now in his life, so captivating.

    And we end the book on a very positive note in terms of, he's about ready to show a new generation of golfing pros and his children, who have never seen him at his peak, what a living legend looks like.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    OK. We will be watching.

    The new book is "Tiger Woods" by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.

    Armen, thanks a lot.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Thank you, Jeff.

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