Tiger Woods has been trying to glue his legacy back together for almost six years. Is it time the glue set?
In June of 2008 I was captivated by a 33 year-old Tiger Woods. He fought an unlikely opponent in Rocco Mediate for 91 holes in the hot boiling sun just outside of San Diego and Rocco just wouldn’t give it up. He was limping all over Torrey Pines and hitting shots from the deep rough that amateur golfers couldn’t even dream up.
The 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines was the first golf tournament I’d ever watched from beginning to end.
It was the same summer I began playing golf.
The same summer I became addicted to golf.
The same summer Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate and reigned as the greatest athlete to ever play golf—for a time.
Tiger will tee it up at Augusta this coming week, a place he practically owned for almost a decade between 1997 and 2005. But since they made changes to the course he’s faired no better than any other human on tour.
When the scandal came about in 2009 about Tiger sleeping with multiple women and his marriage came crashing down like Rory on the back nine at Augusta in 2011, all we knew about Tiger Woods became irrelevant.
We knew he’d win more majors that Jack Nicklaus.
We knew he’d win more tournaments than Sam Snead.
We knew he’d never retire and somehow play golf at the highest level well into his 70s.
But then the shell cracked. He became human. He let everyone else see beyond the stone facade he’d been so tirelessly portraying.
Sports figures are supposed to be human. But Tiger has always been superhuman. He didn’t seem to show emotion with the press except on rare occasion. He didn’t seem to be bothered by criticism. And when he was he’d just give the reporter a cold stare that would make a Rottweiler lose bladder control.
The last few outings for Tiger have been anything but what he expects from himself. He’s acknowledging that his fourth career swing change is a process, but you can tell he hasn’t been happy. He hasn’t played since early February, and that wasn’t a great outing, and now he’s back in the Masters—
I think he’s only playing in the Masters for one reason—he’s trying to piece back together his legacy that was undoubtedly destroyed in 2009. He’s still trying to become the man he thought he’d become when he was 21. He’s still trying to become the man Earl Woods expected him to be.
It’s impossible to say how often he thinks about the expectations his dad laid out for him— but there’s no question he was expected to be nothing less than legendary.
As he tees it up this week Tiger is playing for more than first place. Each outing he shows up for these days is doing something infinitely more important than trying to get back on the record books—he’s trying to define himself.
He’s trying to define his legacy as something more than a scandal. And as unfortunate as it may be, if he doesn’t win a major the rest of his career I’m afraid the glue won’t set-up on his legacy. I’m afraid he’ll have defined what should have been the greatest career in golf history with a character flaw.
Tiger Woods is a legend. He’s a man who’s helped many, many people. But the fragility of the human psyche and the perception of the public eye are not a match made in heaven. Tiger should have spent time trying to become the best man he could possibly become after 2009 and not the best golfer. For ultimately what he’s going to be judged on in the history books is the former, not that later.
His legacy will always be missing pieces.
Photo: Flickr/Keith Allison