Pressure made Tiger Woods. Pressure broke Tiger Woods. The best elements of Matthew Hamachek and Matthew Heineman’s docuseries paint a portrait of someone who literally always responded to intense pressure. The idea that the same pressure that shaped Woods would bring him down both physically and in the tabloids is clearly the thrust of Hamachek and Heineman’s approach, and they do connect some interesting dots along their trip through the life of one of the most famous athletes in history. “Tiger” is never boring because Woods himself is an interesting figure, even if the filmmakers are unable to dig below that surface with enough force.
Tiger’s father Earl Woods is the main throughline of “Tiger,” and he’s introduced speaking about his young son as the savior of not just golf but something greater to his people. Earl Woods was everything to Tiger Woods. He not only shaped his golf skills but became more like a friend or brother to Tiger, arguably to the young man’s detriment. One of the most interesting chapters of “Tiger” draws a line between Earl’s constant infidelity, often with Tiger nearby, to the issues that led to his son’s downfall. The picture of Tiger Woods that emerges is one of a man always trying to impress his father—on the golf course, with his relationships, and even with adventures in military exercises. Feeling like you’re constantly coming up short is not an easy way to live.
And yet “Tiger” struggles to really teach us anything about its subject because Hamachek and Matthew Heineman are content to turn this into a chronological mix of archival footage and interview segments. Way too many of the interview subjects offer an outsider impression of the young man, either from sports journalists or people who knew Woods. It’s one thing for the Woods estate to clearly be as private as they were with this production, but the glimpses we do get of personal Woods hint at a deeper, more insightful project than this blend of previously seen material with outsider commentary. For example, there’s a clip early in the series of young Tiger partying with friends, and it’s a looser, more relaxed version of Woods than we’re used to seeing. “Tiger” needed way more of that kind of material and significantly less highlight reel footage from major places like ESPN or his talk show appearances.