He’s Only Human

imagesALOTEHUCIt has been a long journey for the man who was king: Eldrick Woods.

Like Madonna and Cher, he is endowed with the solo moniker reserved for the most iconic idols. For so many years, really most of his lifetime, Tiger did something revered in American society; he hit a golf ball in the hole sooner and more dramatically than any other player who had preceded him. Most said he was not human.  His seering singularity came at a price and Tiger, the person, was indeed not like most folk. Why? The roots of his laconic and icy persona can be found in his childhood.  He was a sheltered only child who was reared by his father and to a lesser degree his mother who added an additional dose of discipline with one goal in mind: to become the greatest golfer of all time. End of story. And forget the Jack/Tiger argument; mission accomplished.

Happy TigerSo greatest golfer of all time ain’t bad but we know that is just not the real story here. In machine like fashion, he ground out 14 major championships supporting his superhuman status but the toll started to show first physically and then in his personal life. And even before the fall from grace, he seemed ill at ease in the normal routines familiar to us mere mortals. He was intimidating not only to his competitors but the press who would often cower in their questioning,afraid to be cut out of the media herd if they dug too deep. No, Tiger was anything but warm and cozy; like his playing partner on Saturday at the Open said, “it was like playing with a myth”

Young tigerBut the gravity of human condition has an unrelenting way of bringing Gods back down to earth and Tiger came down in a heap. The childhood which in one way facilitated his ascent to the heavens, also sowed the seed of his descent. Earl was certainly no role model and the sole fixation on golf robbed Tiger of the development of coping skills like more assimilated children. And upon receiving another singular moniker when he attended Stanford, “Urkel”, he kinda had enough and he was gonna show the world that he was not a whimpy golfer and boy did he! Navy seal training, big biceps and a slew of lady friends; gravity was in charge. So he has sputtered and rehabbed for many years until his recent emergence. Seemingly in our public eye forever, we forget that in human terms, he is only 42 years old even though the body that he gingerly pulls out of the bunkers now tells a different story.

But here is the turn. The body may be old at 42 but it is in 2018 that Tiger has changed, perhaps spawned by the humbling and collective soul drubbing he has taken over the last several years. The green shoots are there; he is letting reporters in, smiling on the course and the expletives have been replaced with the quiet confidence. His celebrations on made putts are muted and understated, dare I say humble.

ChildrenAnd so he came to the Open with a chance and he did not disappoint. Yes, he sputtered like the human he has become and in the past, this kind of near miss would have gutted him but instead, he seemed happy about the journey and not the result, conducting himself with great elegance on 18 on Sunday and in the press conference. And if you did not think his hugging of his children after 18 was the embodiment of a loving father, I cannot help you. It moved me.

And so the reboot is not a robot; he has endured much and he has come out the other side like the rest of us, a work in progress whose best days are ahead of him whether he wins or not. He is only human and I am rooting for him.

 

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