His winning a fifth Master’s was gratifying to the hopes that each of us have for ourselves. But will it make Tiger Woods what Jack and Arnie were, aside from golf?
Over a weekend of Ohio State-Michigan baseball someone asked me in the Bill Davis Stadium press box if I was pulling for Tiger Woods to win the Master’s.
I replied, “No, it really doesn’t matter to me.”
“How can you say that?” the questioner asked. “How can you not root for a guy who’s been through what he’s been through?”
Fair enough, and I thought about just that as Woods tapped in on #18 Sunday to secure his fifteenth major title, and his fifth Master’s. His ascendance from the dung hill of the fallen is a remarkable lesson to us all…of what the human spirit is capable of doing. Tiger Woods took average, everyday lip service to accomplishment and put his money and perseverance where the rest of us just have our mouths. Some talk about turning their life and their career around…but he did it!
You can make the point that he had every advantage – sponsorship, wealth, notoriety, and all those friends in high (or low) places. Sure, but none of that takes the place of the tee shot he was able to make on the 16th hole Sunday, the shot that propelled him to the pinnacle of comeback. I’d like to think that all of us are capable of that, even though I’m not that naive. We’re not, because most aren’t that competitive. And truth be said, most don’t have the fight necessary to come back from where Tiger Woods has been.
His popularity will now take a spike the likes of which no other athlete has known since Muhammad Ali, and the public denouncement he received when he refused to serve in the U.S. military at the height of his boxing success. We tend to forgive and forget where sport and records are concerned, and Ali was more popular after his comeback than before.
But where Woods is concerned, and others like him, I will always think about what I’ve personally observed…at Muirfield over the years when he’s shunned people who just wanted an acknowledgment to their friendly, “Hi Tiger”, only to have him brush past without even eye contact.
I remember him ignoring kids who wanted an autograph, or for the scant moment it takes for a cell phone photo. This was the Tiger of the 90s, when what he meant to golf meant far more than what the average golf fan meant to him. And who knew that there would come a day when he’d desperately appreciate the love and support they showered upon him yesterday – when he was, again, the greatest story in golf?
I will always appreciate the human spirit and how it finds a way to win against all odds, which Woods’ victory yesterday certainly signifies. But just as important, I hope that the humility, and those crocodile tears afterwards were genuine, because athletes from every generation have a way of forgetting. That achievement is hollow if there’s no one there to appreciate it.
Chasing Jack’s records are one thing. Treating people like Jack and Arnie did…are another!