Must see golf TV
Full disclosure. I am not a golf fan. I tried to learn to golf for a short period when I was younger, which basically ended with a bunch of broken clubs at my college senior week golf tournament. I find the sport slow, boring, and nearly intolerable to watch.
That said, even I am aware of and mildly anticipating the return of Tiger Woods to this week’s Master’s Golf Tournament, his first golf major since an automobile accident in 2021 that could have easily cost Woods his life and, later, his right leg. This accident was presumed to end Tiger’s professional golfing career, something that had largely been in relative distress anyway thanks to a series of chronic injuries and life crises dating back to a 2009 evening where his public personal of impenetrable excellence imploded in an incident in his Orlando driveway. Since that time, Tiger has fought a relative uphill battle of mind and body, derailing all assumptions of destiny as the most accomplished golfer of all time.
Even though Tiger is, by all accounts, the greatest golfer to ever walk the fairway, the numbers won’t bare that narrative. He stands at 15 major victories, three short of Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18, and even with his surprise Master’s win in 2019 at age 43, it’s nearly impossible to imagine him catching up. Honestly, I’m can’t imagine him winning one more, much less three. As a reminder, father time remains undefeated. That, of course, is why everyone is so fixated on this weekend’s affairs. Can Tiger Woods, the exemplar of perfection in a game that is nothing less than managed failure, turn back the hands of time. Can Tiger at 46, with a bad back and more screws and rods in his leg than an Ikea table somehow beckon his former self.
My completely non-scientific and highly uninformed answer to that is absolutely not. I’m going to conservatively guess that he might make the cut – although very likely not – and will be extremely challenged to be relevant come Sunday. And mind you, I picked Kansas to win the basketball national title. I also fully acknowledge that if Tiger does somehow defy all odds and wins the Master’s, it would be a top five sports victory of all time; and I don’t think that’s hyperbole. This would be a Hollywood script before he even put on the green jacket.
But the question isn’t really whether he could win or not, and again, I don’t think he can. It’s why do sports fans seem to want it so much. Athletes age, even championship athletes, and rarely do we long for their past glory as we do Tiger. Mike Krzyzewski lost in the Final Four last weekend, and people we’re fine with it – in fact, most more than fine. A whole lot of people wanted Tom Brady to stay retired. But with Tiger, there’s an undercurrent of hope, almost as if willing it to happen might make it so. And that’s despite all his personal transgressions, all the things he’s done that typically make us turn away.
I don’t know that there’s an easy answer, but here’s a few thoughts. First, it’s rare in life that we see singular greatness. And we saw that in Tiger, doing things we assumed couldn’t be done. But athletic excellence is a perishable item, and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. I think people are hoping to extend that fresh by date just a bit further.
Second, as Tiger ages, we age as well. That’s true for most all of our public heroes. Want to feel old? Go to concert of your favorite band from 20 years ago. When Tiger returns to mortality for good, that’s a sign that we’re getting older as well. So perhaps when we long for the Tiger of yesterday, it’s not simply about golf.
Finally, whatever you think about Tiger Woods, you have to say this – he’s gone through a lot. A lot of that was self-inflicted for sure. But there’s no question he has battle scars, both physical and psychological. Perhaps even those who once hated his sense of privilege now see someone who’s life experiences are far less glorified. In other words, he’s paid a price, even if he’s also had it pretty good. So maybe, particularly after his near-death experience, we’re all cheering for Tiger.
I’m probably not going to go that far, given some of Tiger’s history. But I’ll still watch a bit. Even though I’m not a big fan of golf.
Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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