I’m going to preface this blog before you completely dismiss it, which you might have based on the title alone. I DO NOT condone cheating in relationships. I’m of the ilk if you’re going to cheat, what’s really the point of being in a “committed” relationship. What he did to Elin and his two kids is terrible. Yes, I joke with my friends saying such audacious lines as, “Can you blame him?” “What did you expect?” But they’re jokes. I’ve witnessed too much pain in relationships where cheating has occurred and wouldn’t want that on anybody. That all being said…
I LOVE TIGER WOODS (as a golfer). He was the reason I got into golf to begin with. He’s the reason you can find me watching The Golf Channel and see Golf Magazine and Golf Digest on my magazine rack. As a huge sports fan, his tenacity and killer instinct on the course is something to be admired. He’s clutch in many aspects of the word. His swing and ball flight is majestical. “The Look,” and the focus that accompanies it is what you strive for in elite levels of sports. The “Fist Pump.” How many of you have either witnessed one or given a few on the golf course?
Yes there are a number of other worthy golfers in the game right now, but Tiger Woods IS golf. Look at the ratings, look at the attendance, observe the level of competition with Tiger in the field. He’s done much for the game by presence alone. Even Tiger detractors on and off the course know that he’s needed on the course. To say golf is better off without Tiger would be the same as saying short-track speed skating is better without Apolo Ohno. That the Tour de France is better off without Lance Armstrong. That swimming can hold it’s own without Michael Phelps. All sports are fringe sports like golf once was. All but Apolo have some sort of blemish on their record. Phelps has his drinking while driving and infamous bong incidents, Lance has his accusations of steroids. One could easily argue that short-track, cycling, and swimming are fringe sports (partially due to the 4 year cycle of the Olympics and once a year ride of the Tour de France)… But how many tune in when Apolo, Lance, or Phelps are competing? It’s the same with golf and Tiger.
There are a few things that I hope he cleans up (his family issues being the number one priority). He needs to cut down a bit on the club throwing and outbursts on the course. Look, I know how frustrating the game is… and I’m not even remotely close to being as good of a golfer as Tiger or anyone who plays on a regular basis is (though I’ll take wagers for Slurpees and chicken sandwiches any day). But golf is truly a gentleman’s game. There’s tradition and respect for the game that is inherent. It’s one of those situations that if you respect the game, it respects you more. Not to say a swear word is not allowed. Even though Tiger was “robotic” in his first press conference after the incident, he is human (see the whole incident).
All that being said, I’m a fan of Tiger… evidenced by my six foot wide poster of him. He definitely still has issues he needs to sort out (and I hope for his family’s sake he does). But if there’s one thing I know, Tiger IS golf. Golf is his sanctuary and I think it will help him personally. Speaking of sanctuaries, The Masters is a perfect forum for his highly anticipated return. Tiger’s favorite tournament combined with the fact that Augusta National Golf Club keeps it on lock, is a fitting start to the “new” Tiger. He’ll be able to be in a secluded locker room for Past Champions. Chairman Billy Payne will definitely limit the TMZ’s of the world and I’m sure will be on top of crowd control. There will obviously be quips from the crowd, which may intensify if Tiger doesn’t perform. Let’s just hope Tiger can control Stevie Williams from going into his maniacal tirades (hey he’s the man’s caddy, you can’t blame him… but he needs to work on some stuff also). By perform, even with such a lay off and recent events, morons will think he will win it all. Not saying he can’t win it all, but as a fan I’m tempering expectations. Though winning the Green Jacket would go a long way to getting back to my lofty expectations.
Golf is not only a game of physical ability (Tiger probably has the best out of anyone in the world) but it’s also a stringent mental game (probably why Tiger is head and at times shoulders above anyone in the world). The way Tiger carries himself and performs here on out is part of an upward climb he has put himself in. But you don’t hear too much about Kobe’s incident (where he allegedly raped a woman). Tiger is a celebrity but above all he’s an athlete. He’s nothing without golf (some would say golf is not the same without him), so performance on the course is where he’ll again be judged.
I have lofty expectations for Tiger (drawn from his own expectations), but I may for the first time in years not bet on him to win The Masters. I just want to see Tiger back on the course and hope that he can start to right the ship.
For a bit more on Tiger Woods’ return to golf check out Bob Harig’s article on ESPN.com.