Tiger Woods is at the Masters again. Sure a lot of things have changed since his last win at Augusta, mainly the fact that a lot of his squeaky clean image was a big disguise. He may have had more mistresses than major tournament wins (which is saying a lot). But honestly, I'd really like to see the guy in one of those God awful green jackets one more time.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning his extra-marital activities, but the truth is...I think golf, the sport, NEEDS him to win. When golf is at it's best, there's always a small, very small handful of people that play as superstars. From the days of Bobby Jones, to Sam Sneed, to Jack and Tom...and then..for a while golf lost it's iconic figures. It was anybody's tournament any given weekend. Sure there was a relatively core group that was likely to pop up in the top 10; people like Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Curtis Strange; but no one consistently really dominated the game like the earlier legends.
While that may sound like an ideal, "fair" situation it doesn't give anyone anything to "look forward too" for the next weekend. People WANT stars, especially in a game when 95% of the time the players are playing as individuals.
Then along comes Tiger Woods. A child prodigy. Someone that seemed born, made, destined to play golf. All eyes were on him as he dominated college and amateur tournaments shattering records all along the way. He really had all the pressure in the world on him from the very instant he turned pro, and he didn't disappoint.
From straight out of the gate he shot to the top of the leader boards, winning tournament after tournament. And with each win his legend began to grow. If Tiger was leading on Sunday morning everyone else was playing for second place. He could make a charge on Saturday from anywhere in the pack with an almost mythical quality. He didn't choke. He didn't make mistakes. When it came to golf, he was perfect.
Golf was fun to watch. No matter where things sat at the end of the day on Friday, everyone wanted to see when and how Tiger was going to make his charge this weekend. A good deal of this performances, and that's what they had become...performances, bordered on inhuman. It was amazing to watch.
But on November 27, 2009, (coincidentally my birthday), the whole world found out that when it came to life, he was far from perfect. He had a wife, and kids and had cheated, repeatedly, many, MANY times.
Jack Nicklaus once said, "Golf is 90% mental." If that statement was ever in question, all you have to do is take a brief look at what happened to Tiger's golf game post November 27. You'd think Tiger had had one or more of his arms or legs amputated when he crashed his Escalade into that tree. He couldn't manage to win a tournament. Even worse, for a while, he had trouble even finishing a tournament.
Golf's Hercules had had his hair cut. He was indeed very human after all.
But like I was saying, people want super stars. They need heroes and larger than life, inhuman characters.
In the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance", Will Smith's character is talking with the protagonist of the movie, Randolph Juna. This is a character that supposedly played artful golf then was sent off to war where he lost the majority of his platoon in battle. And went he returned from war, he had 'lost his swing'. Will Smith's advice to Mr. Juna could pretty much be taken straight to Tiger. "The Randolph Juna you was, you ain't ever gonna be. Ever....ever."
So, like the fictional Juna, Tiger has to reinvent himself. The 10% physical part his golf game he's still got. He's just got to work on getting back more of the 90% that Jack talked about. And I hope he can do it, before it's too late. Sure, he's proved he's not perfect in a big way. But I miss the old Tiger. I enjoyed watching the old Tiger tear a golf course to shreds and embarrass a field of the world's best golfers, making them look like high school freshmen. At times, it was in a word...magical.
I'm a strong believer in magic and we could always use a little more of it in the world.