Why Woods is no longer Tiger and Amir has swung downhill
17 May 2017 - 22:33
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
You'd be tempted to think distraction from their respective beats or mere loss of form is what's hurting the careers of golfing great Tiger Woods or Pakistan's one-time rising cricket star Mohammed Amir. Give the matter a thought and you'd perhaps say lack of confidence is what's making their lives as professional athletes difficult.
Woods, 41, was a giant on a golf course before his game and reputation went for a toss following a sex scandal in late 2009. With 14 majors under his belt then, Woods would enter tournaments leaving the rest of players battling for spots at any leaderboard around the world.
Woods now barely makes it to events. The American has missed cuts at events over the last couple of years and that's a major contrast from his dominating days when he would pick up trophies with sublime rounds of golf on any course.
Amir, much younger at the age of 25, also knows the feeling of going downhill in a matter of days. In August 2010, 17-year-old Amir was found guilty of spot-fixing during a Test match against hosts England. The teen was barred from the game and sent to prison for his crimes on a sports pitch.
After serving a ban of five years, Amir was brought back into the Pakistan fold last January as fans hoped the left-arm quick would make a telling comeback. After more than 15 months as an international cricketer since his comeback, Amir is a pale shadow of his dominating self, struggling for wickets in all formats of the game.
Clearly, the scandals that rocked the lives of Woods and Amir show once you lose your magical touch, life as a professional athlete is no longer a case of putting in the hours at the gym and regaining your game.
One could defy the odds but once the spirit sags, playing sports or earning trust of the fans becomes a grind.
Professional sport is beautiful and brutal, Woods and Amir would say.
At one point in time, golf was serenely beautiful for Woods, who revolutionised the game in the 90s and early 2000s. The corporate world was at his feet. The sponsors would beg for a minute or two of mass adulation from Woods, such was his imposing presence. Woods was more than just a freak show.
Claiming 14 majors in just nine years saw Woods break barriers with the global sports fraternity. Before the major victories, Woods had won the USGA junior national title in 1991, '92 and '93. He had also won the US Amateur in '94, '95 and '96. The gym-going American golfer was gripping on the course and darling of the fans off the field.
With millions of dollars in prize money and sponsorship deals, came fan adulation never seen before on a golf field. With the adulation came the heady feeling of being invincible. The heavy money stream kept flowing and a young Woods followed the tempestuous path to infidelity.
The sex scandals threw Woods off the golf course as he missed events after admitting to his guilt in early 2010. A divorce the same year caused further problems as Woods' game started to reel under pressure.
The scandal and the subsequent divorce with wife Elin Nordegren just didn't bring shame and pain for the American. It also cost Woods millions of dollars in settlement dues and loss of sponsorship deals, which meant the star golfer had ceded ground as a money spinner.
In February this year, Woods arrived in Dubai but quit after a dismissal first round card of 77. He hasn't played since.
Amir, the darling of Pakistan cricket in the 14 months he played cricket prior to his spot-fixing shame, defied conventional wisdom that a short man could swing and scare with a ball in hand. Since his international debut in June 2009, Amir was the first man on any Pakistan XI against any opposition.
On fast and bouncy pitches Down Under, Amir won wide-ranging acclaim from former Australian greats in Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and Shane Warne in January 2010. A few months later in England, just days prior to his spot-fixing saga, Amir put on an amazing show of swing bowling that saw him pick wickets with ease.
English pundits and former captains David Gower, Sir Geoffery Boycott, Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton could barely stop drooling at the talents of Amir. Pakistan cricket legend Imran Khan called him 'a better find than Wasim Akram'. Retired bowling star Akram echoed Imran's sentiments.
But in August, Amir threw it all away by bowling deliberate no-balls at the call of shamed captain Salman Butt.
Such was the shock for the world of cricket that Sky TV pundit and former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding choked emotionally during a live review show of the Lord's Test. Holding felt Amir had hurt the game's reputation with his fixing deed and that he wasted the opportunity to be a global superstar in cricket.
The predicament of Woods and Amir is that of players losing confidence and trust with the fans. This case study also goes on to show, sport - whether golf or cricket - doesn't stop evolving.
Once you go iffy about your own skills set, you lose momentum that is so vital in the life of a top evolving athlete.
The world of golf and cricket are poorer with the decline of Woods and Amir.