The image of Woods they labor to conjure is of a capricious, God-like athlete, so carefully coddled and over-awed by his own physical genius that he fails to evince even a rudimentary relationship to human decency. In the process of a four-hundred-page litany that frequently reads like a vaguely hysterical criminal indictment, everything from Woods's on-course comportment to his off-the-clock dalliances to his charitable work are all part of the same toxic framework. Woods's very real and very public failings are revisited with forensic detail and form the foundation of the book's character assassination. His less well known but remarkably impactful work through his charitable foundation and halting but earnest attempts at public and private rehabilitation are treated as self-serving and disingenuous to the extent they are dealt with at all.
In the process of retrofitting Woods’s extraordinary story to their villainous specs, Benedict and Keteyian blow through several journalistic red lights, routinely getting names and dates wrong, misattributing or misrepresenting quotes and anecdotes, and indulging in wild flights of fancy concerning the mindset of an individual they had no access to over the course of the book's authoring.
Ugly and unsavory as the entire enterprise comes off, it's not difficult to see what Benedict and Keteyian are after here. Celebrity and public shaming are in many ways the twin engines that make our contemporary culture hum, and rendering the most salacious, mean-spirited possible portrait of the most dominant athlete of the past twenty years must have felt like a surefire winner when they launched this project. (Not coincidentally, the book will soon be turned into a docuseries by Alex Gibney.) With Woods seemingly a broken man living the joyless life of a wounded recluse, one senses the icky poetic justice the authors must have felt as the great golfer seemed to hit one physical and emotional rock bottom after the next. Everything about their reporting has the character of kicking the living shit out of an individual while he's down—and wearing golf shoes doing it.
It may seem sometimes like America loves nothing better than a vicious takedown of a once beloved figure. But the truth, like the golfer they portray, is a little more nuanced and a lot less depressing. Here's what America likes more: an individual who perseveres, who finds a way back from injury and oblivion, self-inflicted and otherwise, who finds wisdom and humility and self-awareness as he ages. With their unrelentingly nasty and shoddily reported book, Benedict and Keteyian have taken a deep dive into the reputation-wrecking business. But in a bit of instant karma, it's not exactly clear whose reputation they've succeeded in ruining.