IN late June 2008, a week after he astonished the golf world by winning the United States Open while grimacing in pain on a torn left knee, Tiger Woods traveled to a craggy chunk of land on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. It was a lunarlike landscape of dirt and rock, with an inactive volcano in the background. For several hours, he hobbled over the terrain, discussing with developers his vision for the golf course he would build there, while waves from the Pacific crashed onto the shoreline below. His knee, said one companion, rattled like tools in a tool box.
Mr. Woods would soon undergo surgery that would shut down his season, but no matter: the Tiger legend was steaming ahead, and the fall from grace that would follow was unthinkable then. His heroic performance in the Open had enhanced his stature as perhaps the greatest player ever. It was his 14th major championship, putting him only four behind Jack Nicklaus’s 18, the singular goal that Mr. Woods had been pursuing since he turned pro in 1996. His earnings from golf and endorsements had made him wealthy beyond imagination.
Now he was turning his attention to a new challenge, his course design business, one that would extend his brand, bring him untold more millions and leave his permanent imprint on the game he seemed to have mastered so easily.
The Baja course, called Punta Brava, was Mr. Woods’s third design. With its breathtaking landscape, it was easy to envision it rivaling Pebble Beach and establishing his legacy as an architect at age 32. At the news conference to unveil the course, in October 2008 at the Hotel Bel Air in Beverly Hills, he looked at ease sitting next to Red McCombs, the billionaire co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, who was one of the investors.
“I can’t wait until we actually start construction, and we get to move some dirt because that’s when I can really get my hands on it and really be out there even more than I am now,” Mr. Woods said at the time.
Now, two and a half years later, no dirt has been moved at Punta Brava and Mr. Woods has not visited in some time. His two other designs, in Dubai and near Asheville, N.C., are also troubled;