Big wheels keep turning

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 2:12 AM ET

To simply call it an errant drive sounds so harmless, as if a simple, corrective chip back into the fairway would make things right again.

Little did Tiger Woods know the rough he was entering this time was wrought with perils he'd never encountered on a golf course, and would provide no easy escape.

The world's greatest golfer is now the world's greatest provider of tabloid gossip fodder, thanks to a brief, yet erratic, drive down, and off, the street in his exclusive neighbourhood of Windermere, Fla., his Cadillac Escalade bouncing off a fire hydrant and coming to rest against a neighbour's tree.

Problem for Tiger is, the dirt is still flying. His own, personal dirt. And it promises to leave a divot no simple tool can repair.

Tiger isn't the first athlete laid low in such a way.

Today we present the Top-10 Wayward Drives In Sports.

10. Erik Johnson

This No. 1 NHL draft pick was the centrepiece of the St. Louis Blues' youth movement in 2008 -- until he got behind the wheel of a golf cart during a team tournament.

Then 20, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Johnson got his foot stuck between the brake and accelerator pedals and wound up tearing two ligaments, the ACL and MCL, in his right knee.

The injury caused Johnson to miss all of last season, but he's bounced back nicely this year.

9. Jeff Kent

He insisted he simply fell while washing his truck.

But reports soon surfaced that the San Francisco Giants second baseman had actually broken his wrist while popping wheelies on his motorcycle during spring training in 2002.

Turned out Kent had a clause in his $6 million a year contract that forbade him from riding bikes, hence the little, white lie.

The injury caused Kent to miss the beginning of the '02 season.

It left a little tarnish, too, on the reputation of one of the best power-hitting second basemen in Major League history.

8. Ben Roethlisberger

Still with the biker theme, this Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback admitted later he was lucky to have survived a motorcycle crash with a car in June, 2006.

Big Ben wasn't wearing a helmet -- there's no such law in Pennsylvania -- when his head smacked into the car's windshield, resulting in seven hours of surgery, a broken jaw and a few broken teeth.

The youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl said he'd learned his lesson. Next time he rides, he'll cover up.

7. Lawrence Phillips

This NFL bad boy's reputation was already a mess. But trying to run over kids with his car?

That's what Phillips did in March, 2006.

Prosecutors said he drove his car into three teenagers who argued with him after a pickup football game.

The end result: a 10-year prison sentence for multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

6. Bob Probert

What was this NHL heavy-weight thinking when he got into a borrowed car filled with empty beer cans and an empty liquor bottle and crossed the border from Windsor to Detroit in 1989?

He might as well have put a sign on the hood saying, "Check my underwear for drugs."

When border guards did just that, they found 14.3 grams of cocaine, not to mention the cocaine mill in Probert's coat pocket.

The guy spent three months in life's sin bin, a federal prison, and three more in a halfway house before returning to play in the NHL three more years.

5. Jean Van de Velde

A wayward drive of the purest kind, this French golfer's tee shot on the 18th hole of the 1999 British Open will forever go down as one of the dumbest decisions in the history of the Majors.

Van de Velde had a three stroke lead, for heaven's sake, and could have wedged his way down the fairway for a double bogey, and still won the thing.

But no, he had to be the hero and pull out his driver.

The ball went right, and the man went straight into the tank, eventually pinballing shots, like Tiger bouncing his Caddy, into every obstacle in sight: thick rough, then water, then a sand trap.

When the carnage was over, Van de Velde lost what should have been his in a playoff.

Sacre bleu.

4. Ronaldo

If only he'd dropped his girlfriend off and simply gone home that April night in 2008.

Instead, soccer star Ronaldo drove to a Rio hotel that offers hourly rates, with the intention of scoring with a prostitute or two.

When it turned out the hookers in his room were transvestites, the Brazilian took himself out of the game, only to be the victim of an attempted blackmail.

Eventually the girls told the truth, but the publicity cost the three-time FIFA player of the year millions in endorsements.

And forced a long talk with his girlfriend.

3. Eugene Robinson

An NFL free safety with a nose for the ball, Robinson was also a man of taut, moral fibre -- or so the football world believed.

The day before Super Bowl XXXIII, Robinson, a member of the Atlanta Falcons, was presented with the Bart Starr Award, from the Christian group Athletes in Action, for his "high moral character."

That night, he hopped in a car and drove to Biscayne Boulevard, a notorious part of Miami, and offered $40 for oral sex to an undercover cop posing as a hooker.

The next day, his focus elsewhere, Robinson was burned for two big plays in Atlanta's 34-19 loss to Denver.

We can only wonder if Tiger's focus will be similarly affected.

2. Katerina Thanou and Costas Kenteris

These two knuckle-headed Greek sprinters make our list for faking a motorcycle accident on the eve of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The sordid tale began when they missed a drug test just before the Games -- their third missed test.

Faced with a two-year ban from the sport, they claimed they missed the test because they were hurt in the phony accident.

The ensuing scandal overshadowed the start of the Athens Games, and continues to resonate today.

Thanou, a silver medalist behind Marion Jones in the 100 metres in Sydney, four years earlier, was hoping to be awarded the gold medal stripped from Jones, an admitted drug cheat.

But this past week the International Olympic Committee ruled nobody will get Jones' 100-metre gold, saying Thanou disgraced the Olympic movement.

We agree.

1. Tiger Woods

If he'd just stayed home, let his wife take a few rounds out of him and come up with an apology, who knows, maybe we wouldn't know all about Tiger's sexual exploits.

But the moment he got behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade, dozy with painkillers and the club-wielding Elin in hot pursuit, Woods' bizarre and wild private life was on a collision course with every media and gossip outlet on the planet.

As it turns out, Woods lies as well as he hits a three-wood, apparently cheating with enough women to fill the pages of an entire edition of Golf Digest.

From now on, this Tiger is covered in spots.

Disagree with our picks? E-mail yours to topten@sunmedia.ca


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