“It fits.” These were Tiger Woods’ first words after slipping on his fifth green jacket following his Masters victory. This statement was definitive, but it was not as definitive as the statement he made on the golf course over the weekend.
From his first tee shot on Thursday to his final tap-in on the 72nd hole, Woods put on a masterclass of precision and strategy. He plotted his way around the course patiently but made sure to take advantage of scoring opportunities when they presented themselves.
While Woods made his way around Augusta National on Sunday, he played conservatively. Through eleven holes, he remained two strokes behind leader Francesco Molinari, and he sat among a cavalcade of players all trying to chase down the Italian.
Yet in only 30 minutes, the entire makeup of the leaderboard changed. Four players near the top of the leaderboard hit their tee shot on the 12th hole into the water. Woods’ tee ball found dry land and he two-putted for par. On the 13th tee, Woods was tied for the lead, and for the rest of the back nine, he played flawlessly.
To most people who watched the event, Woods’ win was cause for celebration. However, there has always been a subset of golf fans that has consistently rooted against Tiger. And the unfortunate reality is that Sunday’s events won’t be enough to turn many of Tiger’s haters into fans. To many people, it doesn’t matter how many green jackets Woods ends up donning. In their eyes, the man’s prior indiscretions have forever established a barrier preventing them from supporting him.
While I don’t look at Woods the same way these people do, I at least understand their perspective. Tiger has done truly terrible things. He detonated his family through numerous extramarital affairs, and he got behind the wheel of a car under the influence of five different prescription drugs.
Even before these events transpired, some of Woods’ antics irked plenty of golf fans. He cursed, threw clubs, and treated the press coldly. Ever since Tiger claimed his first Masters, a 12-shot victory at the age of 21, he has transcended the sport.
Twelve years later followed and even more dramatic ascension into a sporting deity. Within days, the myth surrounding Tiger Woods was vaporized. In the past ten years, in a highly public fashion, Woods has experienced a high-profile divorce, sex addiction treatment, prescription drug treatment, four back surgeries, and numerous on-course embarrassments.
The fact that Tiger has battled his way through all of these trials and tribulations and come out the other side cleanly is even more impressive than his Masters win. By all accounts, he has become a better man in recent years. Players on tour often rave about Tiger’s pleasant nature on and off the course that he has displayed since his return from injury. He also has become much more open in interviews, to the delight of the media. And through it all, it truly seems that his love for his kids Sam and Charlie has never wavered.
Obviously, much of the adversity Tiger has faced these last 11 years is self-inflicted, and winning The Masters doesn’t absolve him of his sins, but I believe everyone who watched Tiger win on Sunday, whether they were rooting for him to win or not, was moved by what they saw on the final hole. As Woods walked off the 18th green, he was greeted by his family he has worked so hard to keep together. And when he embraced his son Charlie on the same spot he embraced his father Earl 22 years prior, the comeback was truly complete.
At that moment, we saw a man who is, like all of us, flawed. Like all of us, he has made mistakes in the past and will continue to make them in the future. Yes, on Sunday, he tasted something we all seek: redemption.