Monday, December 14, 2009

Legacy over Life ... How Tiger Woods Will Be Giving Up One for the Other

As you've heard by now, Tiger Woods is taking some time away from golf, an indefinite leave of absence, to try and repair his life situation. It appears now that the last few years have been a hoax, not just to his close family and friends, but to us, his followers.

See, that is what I am. A follower of Tiger. He is my generation's super athlete, a freak guy that can do things in sports so much better than everyone else that he comes across as super human. A man among boys.

My dad had Jack Nicklaus. My brother-in-law had Michael Jordan. I get Tiger. He's mine.

Maybe for me, it's a bit more personal, since most of my life has been revolving around that stupid dimpled ball that I can't quite get to do what I need it to do to make a living with it as my companion. Tiger can. He always has been able to, since he was a kid on the Mike Douglas Show hitting the ball more solid than most 30-year-olds.

His legacy has always been paved for him. Become a professional, win major championships, and leave this world the best golfer we have ever seen. What possibly surprised us was how fast that came about. He won the Masters in 1997 by 12 shots. He followed that up with a PGA Championship victory in '99 after some swing changes, and went on to treat major championships like they were apples you could simply pick off a tree.

Now, unlike the past, when his swing needed adjusting, it is his life that is going to need to be more on plane. He obviously can't continue living the way he has, but a few things need to be addressed after his talk of taking time away from the game.

Is the legacy of Tiger Woods worth it? Now, as you shake your head I want you to understand one thing. In no way am I suggesting that he shouldn't be trying to manage his marriage if it is still manageable. I think that he owes it to his wife and kids to try and fix what he recklessly tore apart. But, what I am suggesting is that all his life, Tiger has had one goal.

One goal. Unlike you and I, who might have dreamed of rolling in a birdie putt to win the Masters but will never see Augusta National, Tiger has his goal in sight. This is something he has always wanted. Always.

And because of him, people like myself want it to. I want to see 19. I want to see 20.

To us, it was never his character we were in love with, it was his game. We loved that he could master golf, the most frustrating four letter word ever uttered. Something that has guys like Phil Mickelson clutching his head with both hands after making double-bogey at the U.S. Open and people like Sergio Garcia starring dumbfounded at a golf hole that viciously spit his ball back at him at the British Open.

Golf doesn't care who you are, or what you've done. You get the bad breaks and the good breaks alike, but with Tiger it seemed he always got the good breaks and it was a joy to see it happen. Until the 2009 PGA Championship, Tiger had never lost a lead at a major after 54 holes. Just writing that stat gives me goosebumps. It shouldn't be like that.

Now, everyone will be giving up a little because of these recent, very personal, events. Who knows what was going on with Tiger when he decided he'd start fooling around. Nobody knows if this was something that had gone on the entire time or recently or whatever. We just know that because of Tiger, the guy, we are could be missing out on Tiger, the legacy.

Being dominant in a sport can go at any age, and many golfers can attest to that. With Woods turning 34 in just a few weeks, who knows how many more chances he will have at winning the big one, and creeping up on Jack and his 18. If a personal decision cost Tiger a shot at making history, he won't just have cheated his wife. He will have cheated every golf fan who ever lived.

I bet that girl doesn't look so sexy now, does she?

Scott Halleran, Getty Images


Roody said...

I grew up watching the NBA during the Jordan era, and to me it was the grandest era of basketball the NBA has ever produced. When Jordan retired, so did my interest for watching the sport.

I started playing golf in 1995, right around the same time Tiger was about the explode onto the scene. So Tiger is my "Jordan". When Tiger missed a decent chunk of last year because of his injury, I admit I wasn't watching as much golf on TV.

I think it's because we like to root for perfection. Or root for damn near as close to perfection that we can get. Jordan was as close to perfection to the NBA as Tiger is to the PGA.

Now that image isn't as close to perfect as it once was.

Catherine said...

Great article. Two things though. 1) If Tiger has been able to dominate this much in golf with his life divided and in shambles, can you imagine what he will be able to do with a healthy life and marriage? I mean, this sexual addiction and the turmoil in his marriage had to have counted for some of his losses. How many, 3? 5? 10? Whatever the case, if Tiger can get his life in order, his golf game will soar. We thought Tiger was focused before, but obviously he wasn't entirely. I find this very scary. 2) I see this time away from golf as perhaps one of the best things for his game. I think of Jordan "retiring" at the peak of his career for two years only to come back with a wiser, more adaptable game. The Jordan of the early 90's and 80's had all the physical tools, but the Jordan of the mid-late 90's had learned to use those physical tools with wisdom. I think the Jordan of 95/96 was the best Jordan ever. This break will do the same for Tiger. With his mind away from the game, he will be able to unlearn bad habits, think through his mechanics, and just as importantly, give his body a rest. Let's say he's off for a year; he will extend his career by the rest he receives alone. I don't think Jordan could have played effectively for so long had he not had a break. His body would have worn down sooner. What do you think?

Patricia Hannigan said...

I too wish only the best for Tiger and his family.

Taking time off to work on the marriage might be the right thing to do... but it also might not be... and I hope they won't be convinced to make a decision based on "image" or "legacy", because if that's the basis for staying together the marriage will almost surely break up eventually anyway, with yet more damage having been done in the meantime.

What I'm thinking is, if the marriage is irrepairably damaged it's better for everyone that they end it. They can still be good parents and they'll be far more balanced if they're not living a lie for appearances sake. Of course I'd love to have the "perfect" Tiger of a month ago back. As much as anyone would, however, I don't think it should be forced. Or it'll fail like it did the first time. That said, perhaps Catherine is right perhaps he'll step back and work on his marriage and come back better than ever. That's definitely the ending I'd choose.

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