Let the game that launched him also redeem him
By Jon D. Gaede, BVN Staff –
Before Tiger, Arnold or Jack, a young American golfer with hickory shafts, knickers and a self styled swing, won more tournaments than anyone before him.
His name was Bobby Jones.
Some 80 years ago, when amateur golf was king, Jones was simply the best anyone had ever seen. With style and focused tenacity, Bobby Jones won 13 of golf’s major tournaments, to include the ‘Grand Slam’ in 1930.
“like Tiger Woods, his game transcended continents and culture”
What most casual observers never knew about Bobby, was that he had a fierce temper which always seemed to release particularly descriptive salty language that flowed freely from his lips.
Yes, he liked to throw his clubs too!
Nevertheless, this young American was adored across the ocean and in particular, the Scotts who invented the game. Like Tiger Woods, his game and style transcended continents and culture.
During the Open at Royal St. Andrews in 1921, always the intense competitor, Bobby Jones hit a series of golf shots well below his standard. In frustration, Jones tore up his players scoring card in front of the gallery, let the curse words flow and quit on his round.
A solemn Jones told the newspaper writers of the day that he likely wasn’t mature enough to handle the pressure of premier events. As the pieces of his scorecard floated down the Eden river, so did the aura and mystique of Bobby Jones.
As with Tiger Woods, the public, fueled by the media, turned away from their iconic champion. In 1921 or 2010, we want the super athlete to make the impossible shot and live the storybook life.
In 1927, Jones returned to Royal St. Andrews to compete in the Open once again. In classic kaki knickers and a crisp button downed white shirt, a tanned faced Bobby Jones led all rivals into the 18th hole.
Upon sinking his last put to secure the Open victory, he was embraced by the same Scottish fans who had scorned him, six years earlier. The gal lery swarmed around him, raised young Jones upon their shoulders and shouted in repetition, the chant of “our Bobby”, “our Bobby……….”
Golf is a game of redemption and in many ways the game mirrors the struggles of life. Beyond the enthusiast, the public can be fickle. We are certainly disappointed when our heroes fall but caut iously reserved when they initially pick themselves up again.
In modern times there is one golfer who personifies every standard for success and adoration since the inception of the sport, Tiger Woods. Like Bobby Jones, Woods captivated a generation.
From automobiles to watches, from financial services to beverages, Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods has become synonymous with the sport of golf.
“He plays a game that I am not familiar” -- Jack Nicklaus
The Tiger Woods we thought we knew was desperately human after all. His abrupt fall from grace exposed the private man.
A sincerely humbled Tiger Woods, emerged on the other side of rehabilitation a different person.
This Tiger Woods met the media and his peers in Augusta, Georgia to answer tough questions about his personal life and include himself in golf’s greatest test, the Masters.
Professional golf is a fraternity, like any other exclusive club, members tend to protect and honor their association with a guarded privacy. Playing practice rounds in Augusta with Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara is a reflection of that special kinship.
“Even his harshest critics would not trade chairs with him”
There were no subjects off limi ts at Augusta as the sea of reporters stared back at Tiger and launched their quills. Tiger made a concerted effort to call each writer by their first name and then answered a variety of questions with self-reflecting humility. One could appreciate the depth of shame and remorse he must have felt, as he addressed the national and worldwide audience.
The New York Stock Exchange was said to have slowed by 70% during the 35-minute question and answer session.
As he answered questions about fidelity, car accidents and therapy, one could see the impact of his regret as his unchecked behavior affected those he cares most about.
In reflection, Tiger shared that his deceased father Earl (his best friend) would be so disappointed in him. He added how much he hurt his mother, his wife and the painful regret of missing his child’s first birthday.
The journalists have spun the Augusta interview many ways since Monday, but Tiger is back in the clubhouse, where he belongs. The insular atmosphere of the Masters, contrasted with television cameras poised to broadcast every swing and gesture worldwide.
“The ‘Woods effect’ has certainly compelled millions, to include many of color, to take up the sport”
For all the detractors, let it be said, regardless of his recent transgressions, in the Woods era, the average golfer now makes a pretty good living playing the sport. Let he who is without sin, cast the first club into the pond!
The ‘Woods effect’ has certainly compelled millions of our youth, including many of color, to take up the sport. This next generation continues to reflect that inertia.
On public courses with ‘the guys’ or at Augusta on Sunday afternoon in April, golf is the mental game that draws you in.
One can only imagine the thoughts that run through Tiger’s mind today.
Like Nicklaus, Palmer or the beloved Bobby Jones of 80 years ago, Tiger Woods does things with golf clubs that mere mortals can only dream about.
“The Augusta gallery was cautiously positive”
Tiger teed off at Augusta on Thursday, at 10:42 PST and we were watching. The New York Stock Exchange paused again as households, restaurants, pubs and airport lounges around the world, locked onto the CBS broadcast of Tiger’s first tee swing.
The Augusta gallery was cautiously positive as Tiger remained on the first page of the leader board through Sunday. As Britain’s Lee Westwood faded, American Phil Mikelson came from behind to win his third ‘Green Jacket’ three shots clear of the field. Woods finished five shots off the pace in fourth place.
In a sport that most athletes consider to be a personal challenge, every time they play, Tiger managed to set a Master’s record for total par 5’s. Without visible family support and an unreliable putting game, he was positioned to make a run on Sunday.
The Golf Channel, CBS and the gallery of golf enthusiasts now have their Tiger back. With one major test behind him, Woods plans to take time off as he continues to work on his game and himself.
“Let the game that launched him, also redeem him”
The public will ultimately decide what to think of him.
Although Tiger’s road to redemption may be lengthy, let the game that launched him also redeem him. For now, let us enjoy professional golf’s greatest player paint, and compose upon golf’s greatest canvases.
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