Once Tiger is gone from the game, then we may never see his likes again for some time, writes John McHenry.
For most of the day, I have been batting off wild accusations and innuendo about one of the greatest sportsmen of my lifetime Tiger Woods. For me, this is personal, because I am fortunate to have been paired competitively with Tiger in Asia and to understand just how difficult the world of professional golf actually is.
Tiger is the greatest competitive golfer I have ever witnessed and loathe as I am to admit his career now is over, at best it seems that we will never again be able to witness the combination of factors that made him once such a dominant force.
With 14 major championships, 106 professional wins worldwide and a win ratio of just under 30% for all tournaments played (as compared to Jack Nicklaus’s 12%), Tiger dominated because he brought a whole new level of athleticism and professionalism to the game of golf.
He was the fittest player, the best course strategist, the best long iron player and most importantly the most dominant player from 115 yards in from 1997-2008. His chipping game, shot variety, and competitive mind and imagination were light years ahead of all-comers but it was his ability to handle pressure situation and to “hole out” putts at the most crucial moments, that will forever mark him as one of if not the greatest golfer of all time.
No one can argue but that his public struggles away from the course, started to surface after the death of the most influential man in his life – his father Earl in 2006. Woods Snr was his friend, his first coach, his psychologist and a role model to look up to.
He was also a serial womaniser and while no one fully knows the impact his indiscretions had, it is fair to say Tiger’s infidelity scandal in 2009 was probably one of the most high-profile falls from grace of all time.
It led to a series of apologies, the break-up of his marriage, the loss of a number of lucrative endorsement deals, and a period away from the game.
Most importantly it also led to a public damnation of a man who once seemed invincible.
Winning tournaments and especially major championships can go a long way towards changing the affection for a fallen superstar (just ask John Daly) but Tiger’s ongoing injuries and follow-up surgeries have meant that since 2009, he has never been able to get himself back on a consistent competitive footing — and now, much like an old train, one fears his latest DUI (driving under the influence) charge, may in fact be a catalyst for retirement. I hope not because once Tiger is gone from the game, then we may never see his likes again for some time.
That said, the public outrage to his misdemeanours does beg the question — why should we hold up our sporting superstars to have all-round personalities and values, when they so patently do not?
Tiger Woods is a great golfer but why should his moral compass be compared to Jack Nicklaus. He holds his dominant position in the game because through his performances, he elicits emotions, he exemplifies excellence and he demonstrates sheer courage time and time again.
Tiger is one of a long line of professional athletes whose misdeeds have been exposed to the glare of public scrutiny and discourse. He is not the first and he will not be the last to lose sponsors over his actions but just as one will fall away – another is just as likely to fill that space. The ideal of moral character resonates profoundly, but it is not clearly understood or always put into practice. Just look at Porsche’s continuing support of Maria Sharapova despite her ban for a failed drugs test.
As a society, we too readily take the high moral ground?
We are shocked by what athletes will do to get ahead, but we continuously promote a culture where winning and success has become sacrosanct. We despise business executives or politicians when they break our trust — but we are more than willing to support them in the boom times as long as we can cash in too.
We desire character, but, as a culture we don’t fully value or reward it.
Tiger Woods has done a lot of stupid things in his life he would probably be the first to recognise and change if he had the chance. He is also a great golfer — perhaps the best of all time — and much like our own Rory McIlroy, I hope he soon finds a sufficiently healthy body to show us what we have been missing in his absence from the game.
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