Oh look, another editorial on how Tiger Woods has had a meteoric fall from grace. Unfortunately, it is. Although this angle is more geared towards the legacy that lives on. Tiger Woods is a legend. Fist pumping through 14 major victories, 139 professional victories, and numerous clutch Sundays; Tiger Woods is one of the top golfers ever to hold a club. With the extra-marital debauchery in 2009 and the steep decline of his body’s capacity to ferociously wail at every whip of the steel; he has encountered a bottom no one imagined he would find. Tiger Woods is not the golfer we once knew, although his fingerprints are all over the game he rejuvenated, and the generation he impacted now runs the world of golf.
At my age, I saw the rise of a legend and of late, watched the fall of tragic hero. In the media, the focus remains on his recent DUI arrest, the nostalgic journeys back to Augusta in ’97 or St. Andrews in ’00, or the fallout of his swing coaches over the years. Since being a kid, my father always praised the athletes who were not only great competitors but seemingly upstanding individuals outside the field of sport. Nevertheless, I have always been attracted to gritty, unbridled excellence. Tiger essentially was a winning machine.
Straight out of a storybook, God created a divinely gifted young man coupled with the strict guidance of a military minded father. He was built and nurtured for greatness. What many people do not want to acknowledge is the time spent and countless hours of devotion he sacrificed for the gift. Tiger has never been known to be a warm individual, yet his predator-like focus and obsessive passion resulted in a player we will never see again. Unlike Jack Nicklaus, Lee Elder, or Lee Trevino, I probably wouldn’t find myself laughing at Tiger’s jokes. I do not harbor a yearning to dig into the psyche of a serial winner because his unspoken tenacity was always within. As an articulate individual, his words would never do justice to the onslaught he put on fields in his prime. Those freeze frame moments that are now but a wisp of St. Andrews fog live on within the generation that kiss claret jugs, don green jackets, sip out of U.S. Open trophies and hoist PGA cups.
I find myself in the same age bracket as many of the top golfers in the world: Rory, Jordan, Dustin, Jason, Ryan, among multiple others. The common thread among these athletic specimens is Tiger Woods. Tiger has ingrained at least one key attribute within each of these prolific players: Dustin’s athleticism, Rory’s raw ability, Jordan’s putting finesse, and Day’s tenacity. What is truly scary is that he would spank them all in his prime and I know he thinks the same. Tiger took a globally recognized athletic brand, won without impunity, and made golf cool.
No question golf is a mental test unlike any other. His extra-marital mistakes forever tainted his image and may have resulted in a winning machine with too many bugs to fix. My Dad was right that true greatness exists by those that are exceptional on and off the field. Nevertheless, I hope he was truly sorry. With recent comments from Elin, he sounds like a dedicated father. Seeing his fall into a few addictions also strikes a chord with me and I am living proof he can find his way out. I hope he does.
Today, the general public sees a fallen hero, a cheater, and a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. I see the cubs he raised with each fist pump and the infamous relentless prowl down the fairway. Maybe we can all learn from his mistakes. Although we must take caution in turning a blind eye to his generational effect on a once silver spoon fed, pretty boy sport. Tiger made golf cool and now we are enjoying the true fruit of his legacy.