I’m still trying to process the reality TV that we saw from Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday morning. Much like what we experienced here in St. Louis with Kurt Warner, the Tiger Woods story borders on the unbelievable.
The multi-part 30-for-30 would be better.
America was introduced to Tiger Woods when he was three years old. He was on national TV, on the Mike Douglas show, swinging the golf club with legendary comedian and avid golfer Bob Hope. When he was FOUR, he shot a 48 over nine holes. When he was six, he was featured in Golf Digest and on the TV show That’s Incredible. He won World Junior Championships when he was 9, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 16.
We knew him as a teenager, when he went pro after two years at Stanford, and we all watched as he won The Masters when he was 21. And we watched him become the most dominant golfer of all time during the first eleven years of his career. Oh, and while he was doing that, he was making golf cool. He was attractive to young and minority people, and drew them into a sport that had previously been just a country club sport. Tiger actually became an economy unto himself. During his dominance, more people played golf, more golf courses were built, and more equipment was sold than ever before. During the decade of 2000-2009, he won twelve of the 40 major tournaments that were played, and became the first golfer to hold all four major titles at one time.
In June of 2008, he started dealing with injuries. While winning an epic playoff at the U.S. Open on his favorite course, Torrey Pines in San Diego, Tiger was accused by other golfers of embellishing an injury in his leg. The day after the tournament, we learned that Woods had been playing…and winning…on a broken leg and a knee with a torn ACL. He missed the rest of that season.
In 2009, we learned about the sordid side of Tiger. A Thanksgiving night car accident provided the impetus for us to take an unseemly look at a guy who had been a hero. Affairs with multiple women…everything from porn stars to Perkins Pancake House waitresses…were discovered by his wife, and his high-profile divorce was one of the most public and expensive in history. He went into rehab for sex addiction, and held an awkwardly uncomfortable press conference in which he offered a soft apology.
Woods came back and had some good moments on the golf course but didn’t win a major. Knee, achilles and back injuries took their toll, and in 2017 Woods told friends that he was finished. His only movement was literally a ten minute walk on the beach, and then he’d have to go home and lay down. He couldn’t swing a club. He underwent four back surgeries, including a hail-Mary back fusion in May of 2017.
Yet he came back again in 2018, challenging for the British Open title in July, the PGA Championship title here in St. Louis in August, and winning the Tour Championship in September.
And then, the coup de grace. 22 years after becoming the youngest winner at the Masters, he became the second OLDEST winner at the Masters. His compelling story drew the eyes of America to Sunday morning television, because the final round of the tournament was moved because of a threat of rain in Georgia. Woods had never won a major tournament when trailing after 54 holes, yet came back for the dramatic victory. In 1997, he emotionally hugged his father after winning his first Masters. In 2019, he emotionally hugged his son after winning his fifth.
There’s so much more…81 wins are one shy of the all time PGA record, he and Nicklaus are the only players to win the Masters in three different decades…many of those youngsters that he influenced to play golf are great now, and he beat them this weekend…and he has become part of what America loves, a comeback; a redemption story.
There’s no way they can or should do a movie. Hollywood couldn’t do it justice. There’s no way any producer, director or group of actors could provide more excellence, conflict, drama and emotion as Tiger Woods has given us over his life and career. His weekend at The Masters are what sports are all about. When we call sports the greatest reality TV, this is what we’re talking about. And it doesn’t get any better than Tiger.