I am going to discuss what I think could be the reinvention of Tiger Woods as an iconic sports figure. I should first tell you about my history with the game of golf. My dad taught me about golf from the time I could walk. I can’t remember not watching golf with my dad; we’ve just always done it together. Jack Nicklaus was always my favorite player. I missed the Golden Bear in his prime, but will never forget the ’86 Masters, aka The Greatest Golf Tournament of All Time. Jack always had this aura of greatness about him. He was cocky, even in his later playing years, but that was always part of his aura. I can imagine him in his prime years. He must have been a real monster. I feel that same way about Tiger Woods, and I believe the Nicklaus model will be the way back for him.
In Jack’s youth, the big star on the PGA tour was Arnold Palmer. I don’t think there could be a nicer man on the planet than Arnold Palmer. He even has a delicious drink named after him! Does it get any better than that? Jack was young, and brash, and cocky, but Jack was also great. My guess is that you were either Team Jack or Team Arnie. Tiger Woods doesn’t have that Arnold Palmer figure to compete against. Every week, when Tiger plays golf, it is just him against the field. No competition means, at a certain point, you just watch to see what he’s going to do.
Let’s fast forward to Tiger Woods specifically. I have gone back and forth on Tiger over the years. I was excited about the hype and raw talent he showed in the years just before and after his joining the PGA Tour. You could just tell he had something special. I grew bored pretty quickly though, and resented the incredible hype. I started to root against him for some reason. It was always candy and roses with him. Tiger and his great relationship with his father and mother. Tiger and his new bride. Tiger the great father. Tiger and his trillion dollar smile. Then something brought me back. Tiger lost his father, and we saw some real emotion. From that point forward, when Tiger won, you didn’t just get a controlled smile and fist pump. When he missed a shot, you might see him utter a curse word instead of getting a shot of tight, pursed lips. Tiger became more aggressive. Not only did he live up to the hype; he surpassed it. I was back on the Tiger bandwagon.
That brings me to my theory. People respect those who have overcome adversity. We liked it when Jack had to battle Arnold Palmer (and other greats) to win his18 major championships. That challenge has never been there for Tiger because of his talent. As a result, there seems to be a lot of people who dislike him. It’s natural to root against the favorite. It’s hard to invest some of your sports worship budget on a robot, and Woods is was the poster boy for that.
With his recent troubles, I believe Eldrick Woods has finally found his “Arnold Palmer,” and his name is Tiger. He screwed up, probably. So what. We’ve all done something in our lives that we wish we could change. Granted, most of us didn’t go to the extreme of cheating on our supermodel wife with cocktail waitresses and crashing our car, damn near in the driveway, while taking Ambien and Vicodin. Tiger does things big. He isn’t perfect, and now we all know it. I believe Tiger will dominate next year like never before, and that’s a scary thought. Tiger will go back to what he knows best to retreat from the mess that he has created for himself. That’s bad news for other golfers, and I believe the only way Tiger can get some sense of normalcy back in his life.