This is a follow-up to a column published on March 14, in which I wrote about Tiger Woods in the Valspar Championship, where he placed second after a great round of golf. I wrote then of comebacks, but now I have more to write about: redemption.
Tiger had a spectacular fall from grace in both his golfing achievements and his public persona. In 2009, he was caught cheating on his ex-wife Elin Nordegren — often. Soon after, the public turned against him for his actions, and then his golf play — which could have saved him some face — also fell. After winning six majors in just five years, he failed to win another event for the next two years. Woods was also plagued with injuries. Everything was falling apart for him.
He started coming back in 2012 and 2013, but faced a setback with an injury in 2014. Since then, it has not looked so good. In Aug. 2017, he was arrested for driving under the influence. All of this seemed to spell disaster and the end of the Tiger era.
Flashback to my article on March 14. Tiger had just finished a tournament and he actually looked like the old, prime Tiger in the later rounds. I wrote: “He had a shot to send the tournament to a playoff on the final hole but fell short. Still, this was huge for golf fans. The fallen prodigal son showed glimpses of a return.” He did not win the Valspar then, but this past week, Tiger Woods has gotten himself another major championship win — his 80th. Finally.
He came back from the depths of one scandal, fell into another, fought through injuries and came out a victorious 42-year-old golfer. This win was more than a comeback, though. This was redemption.
Tiger is an interesting case because after all he had done, many people were still cheering for him. Tiger had a massive fall from grace, but when he stepped out on the course, a lot of people still wanted him to win. They wanted to see the greatness of Tiger Woods. This greatness was nowhere to be seen. So when he came out at Valspar and golf fans saw that he still had some more juice left in him, it was all the more exciting. With his win, people saw the man who had defined a sport for them regain his status as a champion.
This is not to ignore what has changed. While his play was important in defining his comeback, his attitude is what made it redemptive. The New York Times published an opinion article about how Tiger is different, saying “more than ever he’s showing he’s also a human being.” Redemption needs change. It needs kindness. From appearances, it seems like Tiger is trying to redeem himself both on and off the course. I hope those appearances are real and that he keeps becoming a better man and golfer.
The world of sports loves a good comeback, but it loves redemption even more.