He’s been so far up that the angels moved over to make room. He’s been so far down that the Devil couldn’t take the competition at those times. He’s been the greatest golfer of all time. He’s been one of the worst professional golfers of all time. He’s been healthy as Hercules. He’s been as injured and in pain as Bobby Jones. And yet, Tiger endured. Tiger persisted. Tiger dug deep and found a way to comeback. Time after time, he found a way to come back physically, emotionally, spiritually. He is a testament to what it means being a human being. And yet, he still may not be there yet.
As the HBO movie about him shows, he’s left a lot of wreckage behind him (amazingly, according to the documentary, he was seriously in love with many of his mistresses and they with him!). Not cars, not airplanes, not houses, not golf courses, but people. And their wounds must weigh on him terribly. I know he’s the Great Compartmentalizer, but I don’t think even Tiger can escape the human carnage he has left behind. And that is sad. But isn’t that true of many of us? To paraphrase another great human being, let whoever among us is without sin, cast the first stone.
Yes, there was adversity, and plenty of it, but another great human being once wrote, Every adversity has within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. And Tiger is now reaping the rewards of the planting of those seeds. At the father/child event recently I saw his son Charlie play with effervescene, confidence, and fun. And what a swing this kid has at 11 years old! But he also seems like, and from what I hear is, a good kid; a regular kid, a kid who loves his Dad intently. Same as Tiger’s daughter Sam. I don’t know what goes on inside Tiger’s head at this time, but I can see the pride he takes with those kids, and the deep love he feels for them. These are two seeds I think the world will be happy to see develop into adults one day. Who knows, maybe one of them will embody Earl Woods’s prediction for Tiger years ago, that his son would change the world through humanitarian action and innovation and inspiration. He may have just gotten the generation wrong.
For Tiger, himself, will not fulfill that prediction. And yet, he still provides inspiration and incentive for many of us to press on in the face of hardship, illness, bad decisions, and like Mary Trump called her book about her uncle, “Too Much and Never Enough.”
That got her uncle, along with Tiger, and I know myself and probably many of you onto a path of adversity. I met guys in state prison when I worked there early in my career as a social service professional who never were able to leave that path of perdition. It’s not an easy path to leave. Some of those inmates were seriously addicted to something or other, as Tiger himself was able to admit to and seek the necessary treatment. I’ve been there myself with tranquilizers and sleep medication. It’s fucking hard to break. It’s takes knowing you can’t do it on your own, followed by heaping doses of grit, determination, and humility. But Tiger did; and so did I.
Now, Tiger again re-injured his back at the father/child event, and has had yet another operation. His camp says he’ll be competing at this year’s Masters, and I expect this amazing athlete will be there. And whether he wins it or not, I, for one, will be happy for the opportunity to again see golf’s GOAT, the Greatest Of All Time, compete and play with all the skills and determination within his being, up to and through his last shot.
And one more thing about Tiger: Whether up or down, he always played, and continues to play, the game with impeccable honesty and respect for its traditions. I know that sounds like giving someone a reward for not robbing a bank, but these days, it needs to be said and acknowledged.