If you thought you’d spend January 2021 talking about anything other than Tiger Woods, you thought wrong. Premiering Sunday, January 10 at 9 pm ET on HBO, Tiger is a two-part HBO Sports documentary that truly has it all — and will certainly have people talking.
The story of Tiger Woods is one of the most American stories in this nation’s history. The rise, the fall, the trophies, the tabloids: it’s all here, and it’s compiled together in this documentary in a way that is captivating, heartbreaking, and triumphant, much like the legendary athlete’s actual life. But perhaps this tale’s biggest success is that it will appeal to everyone. If you want golf, you know you’ve got it, and if you want gossip, hoo boy is that present as well.
Tiger has a lot to cover and still manages to move at a pretty brisk pace. From his upbringing with his militant father Earl Woods to his wunderkind levels of success and then seemingly overnight downfall, the documentary doesn’t shy away from much. It addresses family dynamics, race, the trophies, the affairs, more trophies, more affairs, and his indestructible desire to always be the best. You’ll learn about his life, and what you’ll learn about your own is that we all loved watching his demise play out in the papers just as much as we love watching him play golf.
It will be easy to compare this to last year’s biggest sports doc, The Last Dance, which many criticized for being biased due to Michael Jordan’s involvement in the project. Tiger has the opposite problem: he’s not involved and many of the people interviewed are those he has (sometimes literally) fucked over in the past, and some of which can’t help but appear just a little bit giddy to talk about the golfer. Former caddy Steve Williams, former lover Rachel Uchitel, and other family friends and journalists, mostly of which are not currently in his life, speak up about their relationships with the golfer. And while it’s never not fascinating and informative, you also can’t help but wonder if it’s simply serving as a cathartic way for them to share their side of the story they were once (and now, always) a part of.
Throughout the two parts, as the salacious is balanced with the sentimental, you will not be bored. Even when it’s abundantly clear that Tiger is an…interesting guy…his life has never, ever been boring, and so why should chronicling it in this manner ever be? His life, and even watching it from the sidelines, has always been a rollercoaster. What this documentary points out is how thrilling it was when we were fighting our own urges to run onto the green and high five him when he was winning, how we were drooling over his downfall, and how we can’t help but continue to cheer for him. He’s Tiger.
Directed by Matthew Heineman and Matthew Hamachek, with Alex Gibney serving as one of the executive producers, the doc succeeds in its pacing, its storytelling, and its genuine capturing of such an only-in-America story: that desperate hunger to be (and remain) one of the most influential athletes and public figures of all time, and the ultimate reminder of how someone can have it all, and yet, never enough.
Tiger is able to fairly thoroughly cover both the trademark swings from childhood through current competitions and the trademark misses (training with the Navy Seals?!). Few details are skipped over when it comes to what this career has done to his mind and his body, as after all, there is no other story like this in the world. It’s clear this project wanted to do it justice in the way it was told, and they do succeed. But when it comes to Tiger, we’ll always be intrigued — never more evident than at the end of Part 1, especially as we all know what’s coming in Part 2, which will give you tingles and have you cursing HBO for making you wait a week for the next installment.