To the extent I give a damn, Tiger Woods is important to golf. I was too young when Jack fell off, and none of the kids who have come after Tiger have become true superstars. Yes, Mickelson has been great, but he’s folded up in more majors, and Phil is just less interesting. Tiger is just the most interesting thing golf has had for many years. This was true when he was winning U.S. Amateur titles. It was true over the last decade when he fell off the radar. It was true yesterday. Tiger’s longevity of relevance, that he even was relevant in the 90’s, is the thing that makes him most rare in sports.
To be clear, I’m not really a big Tiger fan. His image as a perfect, Disney “good guy” in his younger years was a complete fraud. I don’t really care that he was cheating on his wife, more so just that he portrayed himself as the opposite. The DWI he took for pills wasn’t overly endearing either. I’m not anti-Tiger Woods, but the hero celebration after yesterday was nauseating at best.
Of course, in an era of disappointments for stars and leaders, perhaps Tiger Woods is the hero we need and deserve. We know his faults, we know what’s phony about him, and we’ve watched it all play out in real time. We watched his personal life implode, his dirty laundry aired, and jokes made at his expense. We watched his knee injury, and then watched his bad back destroy his game. We watched him go from dominant to irrelevant, to back to winning a major. It’s not like Tiger is unique of course, but Jordan’s gambling, Bonds PED use, and Brady’s various cheating episodes always came with caveats- most typically being their “alleged” nature. None of that went on with Tiger. He was exposed, torn down, and made into a full-scale villain.
In a society where we’re all literally flawed people, absolutely none of us are perfect, I can see why people responded warmly yesterday to Tiger winning the Masters. We’d all like to believe we can come back from our flaws too. Tiger Woods doing it gives hope to a lot of other people. Flawed as he is, maybe that is Tiger Woods role now.