Now is not the time to judge Tiger

This is what change looks like, when a Tiger attempts to change his stripes.

There are fired coaches, friends, agencies and caddies. The mental breakdown can lead to a physical breakdown. Your loved ones, competitors and fans wonder whether you’ll ever be the same.

Don’t make the mistake of giving up on Tiger Woods.

That’s not a prediction. It’s just a warning, a request that you remember that devastating tumult can be invigorating and overcome.

Most of us have been where Tiger is at today. We’ve made fools of ourselves and had to reflect and adjust. Obviously what Tiger is going through is much more difficult. He’s a global icon with little public privacy. The world knows of his personal failure and his professional struggle.

Tiger announced Wednesday that two weeks ago he dismissed longtime caddie Stevie Williams. The news shocked Williams at the time and it shocked golf fans Wednesday. Some people will see it as further evidence Tiger is still spiraling from the 2009 Thanksgiving car crash and revelations about his then-extracurricular marital activities.

I see the breakup as further proof Tiger is trying to implement real change. That is not a knock on Stevie Williams. He did a great job for 12 years.

It’s just time for Tiger to move on.

When you make the kind of colossal mistake Tiger made, the foundation of your relationships with everyone changes. Williams and his wife were close to Tiger’s ex-wife, Elin Nordegren. Williams says he was not a participant in or silent enabler of Tiger’s previous life.

You know what a breakup is like when you’re friends with both parties. You can rarely choose to remain close to both. You choose a side or you lose them both.

Firing Williams is probably good for Tiger and Williams. They can now build relationships with new golf partners based on transparency, free of the baggage from the past.

Hell, if I were Tiger, I might spend some time playing overseas on the European or Asian tours. That might be the best way for him to regain his confidence.

Sometimes running away and/or moving away from your troubles is the smart play. You ever had a bad girlfriend/boyfriend and the only solution was a new ZIP code for a year or two? It works. It might be painful for your old friends, but it’s what is best for you.

Charles Barkley, the NBA legend/broadcaster and Tiger friend, has done several interviews in which he has voiced displeasure about his lack of contact with Tiger over the past two years. Barkley, who says he still loves Tiger, is frustrated that Tiger has stepped away from his friendships with Barkley and Michael Jordan.

Tiger’s decision could have very little to do with his feelings about Barkley and Jordan. It could be an indication of how Tiger feels about himself.

Thirteen years ago, I remember when I almost tossed away my columnist career when I did something immature and stupid inside the New England Patriots press box. I got in a taunting match with Patriots fans and held up an offensive, handwritten sign. I got suspended from my job for two weeks. My suspension and behavior made news nationally among my sportswriting peers.

I didn’t want to talk to anybody for two weeks. I never left my house. I stewed. I battled depression. I interpreted the loyalty shown to me by my then-girlfriend as a sign that she was the ideal woman. That foolish interpretation haunted me for many years.

My point is, we shouldn’t try to judge Tiger Woods at this time.

We don’t know what is going on and what he’s going through. He ruined a fairy-tale life and dramatically changed the lives of his children.

The things we interpret from afar as mistakes might actually be the best decisions. He hasn’t won a golf tournament in two years. If the Patriots go two years without winning a game, coaches, executives and players will all be replaced, regardless of how successful they were in the past.

“A player has the right to fire a caddie at any given time,” Williams told The Associated Press. “And a player, when he’s not playing at his best for an extended period of time, it’s not uncommon to change caddies, coaches, psychologists or bring on a psychologist. We all know the business. I have no problem being fired. But I’m disappointed in the timing of it.”

There’s never a good time to be fired. I’m sure Williams will be fine. I’m holding out hope Tiger will be, too.