Tiger Woods Redemption Story is About as Good as it Gets in Sports
Middle age changes everyone. There are no exceptions. Even professional athletes sometimes have to change their lives, their lifestyles and in some cases are redeemed or gain an extra level of respect after accomplishing something later in life nobody, including them thought possible.
Tiger Woods of 2019 bears little resemblance to the fresh faced 21-year old phenom who changed golf forever after winning the Masters in 1997.
Sure, he still looks a fit 185 or so pounds and just over 6-feet tall. But the hairline is receding, the hands a bit more calloused, the walk a little slower and heavier. Perhaps the biggest difference, the now seemingly unchanged smile of enjoyment and fun---something he flat out didn't have as arguably the most ruthless competitor the sport of golf has ever know.
It could have been a combination of things that caused Tiger Woods to hit pretty damn near rock-bottom not very long ago. The guy who had been dubbed the "Greatest of them all" in the early 2000's apparently thought he was at the time indestructible.
That confidence and misguided judgement combined with physical problems nearly ended his career well before it should have. Multiple surgeries on the knees and disk replacement surgery for a golfer is in many cases enough to end a profession.
Of course the infamous public breakup with his then wife Elin in 2009, the one where she allegedly chased Woods out of his own home with a golf club after discovering a painfully long list of infidelities was probably the beginning of the slide, maybe we didn't see it coming---but it (the collapse) was always there, lurking in the shadows.
Professional Athletes---particularly the ones who are at the very top of their games live a completely different life than you and I. There world is filled with enablers, hangers on and people who will never tell them they can't do something if they want. Every want and need is catered to by people just wanting to be in the same atmosphere or circle these mega rich stars inhabit.
For some, the temptation is too hard to resist, they get sucked into that life, making a bad lifestyle decision that cost them for the rest of their lives.
Tiger Woods was very nearly a casualty of that lifestyle and really until the reaction I saw after he won the 2019 Masters---was one I never totally believed he had evolved from.
I was one of many who thought his time had ended, for the good of the game, someone else needed the spotlight and be developed, be the face of the game. Writers and broadcasters could never get past the specter of Tiger even as his back nearly gave out, his knees wore down, they still waited with breathless anticipation for Woods to dominate like he'd always done.
There were signs last year (2018), the boy king might be getting his game back. The years of tinkering with the coach of the moment finally in the rearview mirror, Tiger went back to the basics knowing he could no longer overpower the field.
We finally saw it come to fruition with an absolutely breathtaking win at the 2019 Masters. Gone was the Tiger who dropped 350-yard bombs down the fairway with reckless abandon and in its place was a 43-year old tactical expert who finished the tournament 1st in greens in regulation and among the top of the putting list for the week. Those are what get you Championships when you aren't the guy you were at age 23.
To see Tiger's reaction and the passionate scoop up of his kids after finishing the last hole is what Sport and more importantly LIFE is all about. Seeing the pure joy on his face to interact with the kids in that way showed me we aren't talking about a Tiger as the cutthroat kid who was all super intense business in public who played and lived live hard.