“I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records man’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.” – Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren
Well, consider this perhaps the first and last time I will quote Earl Warren approvingly.
For an entire generation of sports fans, Tiger Woods defined grit, determination, suaveness, and pizzazz. Woods, who won his first record-shattering Masters one year before Michael Jordan’s final NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls, was the anointed successor to Jordan as the world’s most mass-marketed athletic phenomenon. Personally, Tiger was the closest I had to a coming-of-age sporting hero — someone whom I would constantly emulate and root for every time he set foot on the golf course.
And then, twelve years after his first victory at the Masters at the tender age of 21, Tiger fell. Hard.
For years, after his now-infamously adulterous ways were outed and his personal life unraveled, the world’s hitherto most dominant athlete found himself mired in obscurity. He was arrested for a DUI. He had four knee surgeries, four back surgeries, and underwent countless swing changes.
And now, eleven years after Tiger’s last major championship victory — in which he out-dueled Rocco Mediate in an eighteen-hole playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — and a whopping fourteen years after he last won a coveted green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club, Tiger has come all the way back to once again reach the pinnacle of the golfing world. It is nothing less than the most remarkable story to emerge from the sporting world in my lifetime.
Tiger Woods is not everyone’s cup of tea. Indeed, he is a famously complex figure — cold, aloof, oddly childish in some ways, and with a legion of publicly exposed sins for which he may or may not have already repented in the service of a higher power in which he may or may not believe.
But there is something indescribably seductive — inescapably dazzling — about watching the culmination of a decade-long comeback of a man who was not so much merely a legendary golfer as he was a legendary global icon. Yesterday was a historic day that made for gripping television, as fans all across the world rooted for Tiger to complete his comeback at the lusciously verdant site of his first major triumph — Augusta National.
And succeed Tiger did.
America, as is so often said, is a land of second chances. With enough hard work, perseverance, and dedication, there is often no limit to man’s ability to fight back from the brink and ascend to the top anew. Tiger Woods, the once-great champion who flirted with an injury-addled premature retirement but who chose to take the more difficult yet more rewarding path instead, is now living proof of that. Tiger may not be a shining example of morality in one’s personal life, but he is — and now, forever will be — a shining example of the power of the human spirit. And, amazingly, this encore presentation of Tiger’s career is likely not over; considering also his runner-up finish at last season’s final major, the 2018 PGA Championship, Tiger appears to once again be playing some of the best golf of his career.
It is a simply astonishing story — a testament to grit, work ethic, and sheer industriousness.
I am so very happy for Tiger Woods.