It was the police mugshot that said it all.
To see Tiger Woods’ dishevelled appearance following his arrest for DUI [driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs] should give us all pause.
As Derek Lawrenson so brilliantly put it in The Daily Mail: “The man who inspired the crusade for fitness in golf and was arguably the greatest athlete of his generation looking like just another deadbeat is an image so jarring it will not be easily erased from the mind.”
Woods was badly affected by prescription medication at the time of his arrest and what we know of the circumstances is highly alarming.
When arrested by Palm Beach County sheriffs near Jupiter, Florida, Woods was asleep at the wheel with the engine still running, his car stopped in a traffic lane.
He was facing the opposite direction to his home.
Clearly, this story could have had a worse ending.
Woods – whose personal life unravelled after a string of extramarital affairs hit the headlines in 2009 – has never recovered.
His marriage broke down and sponsors abandoned him.
He took leave from the professional golf circuit, but his personal life had become public fodder and his struggles were only just beginning.
When he returned to tournament play, injuries began to impact on his previously unmatched ability.
Although he won three events in 2012 and five the following year, he has mostly been a mere shadow of the once-in-a-lifetime talent that had claimed 14 major championships between 1997 and 2008.
Persistent back problems have dogged Woods in recent years, so much so he has undergone four bouts of surgery in a bid to fix the problem.
Only a week ago, he wrote on his personal blog that before his most recent surgery, he “could no longer live with the pain”.
Perhaps tellingly he explained: “I had nerve pain with anything I did and was at the end of my rope.”
He added that the surgery was a success, at least in that it was “instant nerve relief”.
Woods, who has been playing golf since he first appeared on American television as a two-year-old prodigy, has had that taken away from him.
The body which had been his vehicle to success, fame, and fortune, had broken down and failed him.
The once-exemplary mentality which allowed him to focus like few others, the determination that had seen him perfect the most imperfect of sporting pursuits, now clouded and compromised.
Adding to whatever frustrations he may have felt was debilitating pain. It hurt to lie down.
Many of us are frustrated and upset on an almost daily basis by little things, like the commute to work or the mess the kids have made.
Some of us have much more serious stresses.
But few of us can put ourselves into the shoes of a man who was so accustomed to operating at such a phenomenal level he would have had a hard time settling for “exceptional” now finding himself no longer even special.
Perhaps Woods doesn’t need our pity but he certainly doesn’t deserve our disdain, or further public ridicule.
We need to remember, as we should with all public figures, that despite appearances to the contrary, he is not, and never has been, bulletproof.
As golf legend Jack Nicklaus said of Woods: “He needs support from a lot of people”.
Let’s hope the media and public opt to be part of the solution in the coming weeks.