I can’t deny how amazing it once was to watch Tiger Woods play golf. It’s not that I was a fan, however. I enjoyed watching him, but I’m more of an underdog guy – which is a label you could never have applied to Tiger. No matter what tournament, he was always lurking. He stalked. He was never to be discounted. He was such a colossus of the game, such an intimidating factor, that his mere presence on the course could rattle even the most seasoned of golf veterans. Pros with any number of victories under their belts, majors or otherwise, would watch their games fall apart just because Woods was in the running. That was as much a part of his game as his skill and concentration.
He is still “Tiger Woods,” of course, but he stalks more like a longshot in the Kentucky Derby. He may have a chance of winning, but his intimidation factor is all but gone. Often he tuckers out.
Any golfer knows the psychological part of the game. You can have the best swing in the world, have great putting, and hit long, straight drives. But, when you put something on the line in your own mind, your game can quickly crumble. I remember being on 18 with my friend Pat and saying, “I would have to triple bogey this hole to not break 80.” I hit two hazards and scored a 9. 82 for the day. That one realization, that one little ounce of pressure, was all it took for my game to fall apart. Imagine how difficult it must be to stay focused with a gallery watching, a green jacket at stake, and millions of dollars on the line.
Professional golfers, no matter how poorly they shoot, will always be better than you and I. To watch an athlete like Tiger Woods go from being one of the top golfers of all time, to a man struggling with fundamental game mechanics, as well as the weight of a highly publicized personal life, gives me something to root for.
It was easy to love Tiger Woods in the same way it has always been easy to love the New York Yankees. Tiger was the undisputable best, his streak virtually unparalleled. He was the biggest, most endorsed, highest paid, and most successful athlete on the planet. When he won it was to be expected. It became more interesting to watch other golfers try to topple his game, because their victory would mean something bigger than a win. It meant they beat the best in the world.
What happened to his game and life does not make him a bad man – it makes him human. It means he makes the same mistakes we all make. With the fame and power of Tiger Woods came for him, understandably, a feeling of invincibility, narcissism, and power. It ruined him. Perhaps not financially, but as a person that for so long dazzled us by making something that frustrates the weekend golfer look easy. Rarely did a tournament go by where Woods would not draw an audible “wow” from those watching. We immortalized him as much as his own greatness did.
Is it possible for Tiger to get back on top? I hope so. I want to believe that a man can fall from grace, in almost every way possible, fight back against detractors, and become great again.