Tiger Woods "flirted with the idea" of joining the army in order to step away from golf

Alan Shipnuck takes Off The Ball behind his Sports Illustrated cover story

Tiger Woods

Picture by: Lynne Cameron / PA Wire/Press Association Images

He may have been away from the top for a long time but Tiger Woods has made his return to the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The magazine's chief golf writer Alan Shipnuck was the man who penned the cover story entitled 'What Happened?' which has proved hugely popular and features insights about where his career went off the tracks.

He joined Off The Ball on tonight's show to talk about the overwhelming question about Tiger: What happened?

"The two people who were closest to Tiger in the 21st century were Hank Haney and Steve Williams and both have been very open in their thesis that Tiger was crushed by the burden of the expectations he'd created and that he lost a lot of love for the game and a lot of desire to achieve in some ways and yet he had built this massive life that he was almost a corporation unto himself and had commitments from so many people," said Shipnuck.

Tiger Woods reacts after missing a putt on the ninth hole during the second round of the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

"And if you decide one day that you're Tiger Woods but you don't want to be Tiger Woods anymore, how do you extricate yourself? I laid it all out in the article. He really flirted with the idea of joining the military and just completely walking away from the game. As hard to believe as that is, people close to him really felt that was close to happening. Ultimately he didn't go down that road but as Haney said, then what's left? The only way you can press eject is to self-destruct and obviously Tiger did that in spectacular fashion."  

As for the infamous infidelity scandal of 2009, Shipnuck charted the former World No 1's transition from a figure nicknamed after TV nerd Steve Urkel while in college to finding himself involved in such a situation which then became public knowledge.

"If you're a guy who could never get a date in high school and all of a sudden you have all these beautiful women throwing themselves at you, it's certainly going to play into some sort of recasting yourself image, right? So it's easy to understand how Tiger got a little carried away," said Shipnuck, while also explaining the influence his father's own life might have had in that regard and also touching on Tiger's seeming inability to form deep friendships on tour.

And Shipnuck feels the Tiger of old is "gone forever".