Surprise, Surprise, The King Is Back
I wish I had a cooler first memory of watching Tiger Woods.
Maybe for the sake of this article it would be better if I pretended my first memory watching Tiger was the 2008 US Open, when he bested Rocco Mediate on the 91st hole of the tournament, after an 18 hole playoff wasn’t enough to decide a winner, for his 14th major championship. That would have been a great introduction to Tiger fandom, what with Tiger playing on one leg, having had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee two months before the tournament, sustaining a double stress fracture of his left tibia during the rehab for said surgery, and playing on a ACL that he had torn 10 months earlier.
However, my first memory of watching Tiger and rooting for him to win is the 2011 Masters.
The most vivid memory from that tournament was how deflated I felt when Tiger missed his putt for eagle on Sunday on the 15th hole.
The next memory I have of Tiger is the fiasco at the 15th hole during Friday of the 2013 Masters where Tiger’s approach shot struck the pin and rolled back into the water. The two stroke penalty Tiger was assessed for his illegal drop following that unlucky approach shot took the wind out of his sails and he finished T4.
My final memory of post-scandal, pre-back fusion Tiger is from when he won the 2013 THE PLAYERS Championship, shortly after he had regained his World #1 Ranking.
The interim time period between that THE PLAYERS Championship win and Tiger’s 2018 season, is a blur of injuries and surgeries, attempted comebacks and subsequent setbacks, missed cuts, press releases, and mugshots.
I list all these memories to make the point that: I don’t even really know why I root for Tiger so hard.
I didn’t see him during his prime and I have never played a single round of golf.
Maybe it’s because I love sports so much and Tiger is my excuse to get into golf? Could be, but then why didn’t Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy or some other golfer draw me into the sport over the past few years while Tiger was out of the picture?
There is something about Tiger specifically that piques my interest. I think it is how cool he makes golf. It’s no secret that golf is seen as sort of a boring, dad-sport, what with the golf claps and the hushed-tone announcers and the dorky outfits.
Tiger on the other hand, while being an awkward golf-robot humanoid devoid of basic human empathy and understanding of social cues for most of his career off the course, was an undeniably captivating figure on it.
With the fist pumps, the cursing, and the #SundayRed, even aside from all the winning, it is no wonder why Tiger draws such a huge crowd of fans outside of the general group of golf enthusiasts.
Watching Tiger’s final round on Sunday at this year’s Masters was the most nervous I have been in my life as a sports fan excluding a select few Lebron-era Miami Heat playoff games, and Game 7 of the 2016 Finals. I was living and dying with every shot.
I’m sure that Francesco Molinari is a great guy but on that day I was wishing nothing but the worst for him. Two shots in the water leading to double-bogeys on the back nine? His dreams disintegrating before our eyes on golf’s biggest stage? Inject it into my veins let’s go baby.
The prevailing narrative following Tiger’s win was “look at this guy who used to be a douche and has overcome so much and look he’s a dad now and remember when he hugged his dad and now he’s hugging his soon wow that is beautiful.”
Of course, I agree that Tiger’s walk off the 18th green and various embraces with family and friends was an incredible moment but Tiger didn’t need redemption as a human to get me to root for him. I never stopped rooting for him.
Is it cool for Tiger that he seems to be a better person nowadays, has his health back, and seems to be more grateful for the support he gets and the position he is in? Yeah it is.
But people treat Tiger cheating on his then-wife the same as if he physically abused her. The cheating was a bad look, he by all accounts acted like a complete scumbag, but the backlash from the media and the public at large was so overblown. The proverbial punishment did not fit in the crime in this case.
The May 2017 DUI arrest, where he put other peoples’ lives at risk, driving his car while under the influence of an unholy molotov cocktail of drugs, was just as bad a move morally, probably worse, than cheating on his wife.
After his arrest, forget golf, you just wanted the guy to get his life together. It is understandable, though of course not ideal, to be using painkillers while dealing with multiple surgeries and the everyday pain of a bad back, but to be using several at the same time, and then driving your car, was a low for Tiger for sure.
But from a selfish perspective, I am glad above all else that Tiger is healthy and back to winning majors. I am glad the guy can walk normally again and I am glad his body no longer prevents him from participating in his children’s lives to the fullest.
If Tiger got healthy, started winning again, and was still the same aloof character towards the media and even his fans as he was in his heyday I would still root for the guy. The fact that he is dishing out the occasional high-five to the gallery, and cracking jokes to the press, is just the cherry on top.
Onward and upward to Bethpage Black.