Fenton, MI — April 17, 2019
It took a few days to fully comprehend the magnitude of what I witnessed last weekend while watching the Masters. Occasionally I offer some personal comments in articles. But generally, I try to write stories from a neutral perspective. Please allow me to briefly step out of that box with regard to Tiger Woods remarkable performance at the Masters.
The Game of Golf
Golf’s popularity can be traced to the fact that it’s anyone’s game. Any age, any gender, any physical condition can participate to some degree. The difference between professionals and weekend warriors is huge. But even those of us who play irregularly can make the occasional birdie, with a little luck an eagle might find its way onto the scorecard. Amateurs make holes-in-one every day. By the way, why don’t the professionals have to buy a round in the clubhouse bar when they make one?
There are so many variables to the game, having them come together on one hole is surely a combination of skill and luck. The percentage of both of those combined is the difference between scoring consistently in the 70’s versus the 90’s or higher. When it comes to skill too many golfers equate that only to the physical aspects of the game. But, anyone who works hard on their golfing abilities knows mental skills are equally important.
At the height of Tiger Woods’ career, he was seemingly invincible. Every tournament he entered he was the favorite to win. He intimated opponents, he got inside the heads of some of the best golfers in the world. Often when playing against Tiger, they beat themselves.
He had it all, the adoration of fans, a beautiful wife, children, all the money he could ever spend, and he was rewriting golf’s record books. Then things horrible came apart.
In November of 2009 stories of Tiger’s alleged infidelities began to leak out. Less than a month later he admitted to the indiscretions and announced he was taking “an indefinite break from professional golf.”
Coming to Terms with Personal Demons
In a February 2010 press conference, Tiger apologized for his actions that had become daily fodder for tabloids and national media outlets. Among the statements he made are the following excerpts.
“I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.”
“I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally.”
“But still, I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position.”
A Public Apology
“For all that I have done, I am so sorry.”
“I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.”
“I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me.”
Tiger owned up to his shortcomings. He used words such as irresponsible, selfish, disappointment, embarrassed, sorry, wrong, foolish, and shame. Thanks to his money and fame, he said he felt entitled. Before being overly judgemental, understand that his attitude was what made him such a great golfer. His drive to succeed made all of his accomplishments possible, his focus enabled him to achieve what seemed impossible for most golfers.
But, with success comes huge responsibilities. Where Tiger failed was not using his mental strength to set appropriate limitations on his behavior, especially when it came to basic decisions about right and wrong. While our society has become much more tolerant of certain moralities. There is still a significant stigma attached to marital infidelities.
It is hard to imagine the embarrassment and mental anguish Tiger brought upon himself through his actions.
Anyone who has gone through difficult experiences such as divorce, death of a family member, or other crisis knows how personal issues can have an adverse effect on work. Tiger’s profession required the absolute highest level of mental and physical preparation to succeed. He was right to take a leave from the game.
When he returned to the tour his physical abilities were still there. But, did his mental state contribute to health problems that soon further derailed his career. It was going to take a long time for things to return to normal in Tiger’s life. Did the drive to practice enough still exist? Other incidents revealed issues with prescription drugs and alcohol. Did the back problems come from the general deterioration of his overall physical and mental condition?
A Comeback Like No Other
I for one thought Tiger’s career was over. Repairing one’s spine is a tricky proposition for even the most skilled of surgeons. To repair it to the extent it could survive the rigors of professional golf competition seemed impossible.
My opinion on the responsibilities of professional athletes to conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate to their fanbase, especially youngsters, could fill many an editorial column. Given the damage to Tiger’s reputation, I wondered if it was possible for him to redeem himself in the eyes of his fans.
All these things make it almost an unbelievable story. That, arguably, golfs greatest player could overcome so much to excel at the top of the sport again.
In no way do I minimize the mistakes Tiger himself admitted to. But, to quote an appropriate biblical analogy, “he without sin cast the first stone.” Credit Tiger for fully stepping up and taking responsibility for his actions and the damage caused to so many. Is not forgiveness possible for almost any transgression?
His performance at the Masters was indeed masterful. Above all, the thing what impressed me most was his command of himself. How many times in the past have we seen Tiger shown the emotional anger associated with a poorly executed shot? This past weekend he was even-tempered, he controlled the highs and lows of his game. Tiger, it seemed, was mentally at his best. From that aspect, it appears his game has never been better.
People will embrace Tiger for his return to winning form. Will he win another major? Maybe. Will he win more golf tournaments? Probably. Will he perform as admirably off the course as on? Hopefully. If so, it will be the greatest comeback in the history of sports and Tiger will deserve the accolades he receives.
Tell us what you think. We appreciate your comments. Look to The Lasco Press for continuing golf coverage of this year’s major tournaments on the PGA Tour and our own Ally Challenge coming later this year to Warwick Hills.