THE TIGER ROARS BACK TO LIFE


By Akin Ojumu

After 11 years of deafening silence, the roar of the tiger reverberated across the golf world once again this past weekend, and it was music to the ears of many of us who have followed the illustrious and storied career of Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods.

It is impossible not to feel a thrill run up your leg as you watch Tiger, in his usual Sunday red T-shirt, raise his hands in victory, fist pump the air  in salute, and let out a delirious whoop of delight after tapping in the last putt and realizing he has won the Masters Championship for the 5th time in his career and 14 years after the last time he won here. Words fail to describe the feeling seeing him walk off the 18th green, run up to the waiting arms of his 10-year-old son, Charlie. Time must have ceased, for a split second, to doff a hat in awe and honor of that historic moment reminiscent of 22 years before when, following his victory at the Masters Tournament, Tiger walked off the very same green and hugged his late father, Earl Woods. That moment of pure joy and raw human emotion, father and son locked in a warm embrace, is forever time-stamped into the annals of the history of humanity.

Leading up to this year’s Masters Championship, Tiger Woods was just another one of those washed-up professional athletes whose time in the professional circuit is over but doesn’t know when to hang up the towel – well, golf clubs in this instance – and call it quits. Until his win at the Tour Championship in September 2018, the last time Tiger won any golf tournament was in 2008, when he won the US Open Championships. Following that win 11 years ago, the life and career of Tiger Woods seemed to have come to a standstill.

Considered by many the greatest golfer of all time, Tiger Woods was an intimidating professional athlete. In the history of professional sports, no athlete has exercised greater dominance over their sports. He was a cold-blooded assassin on the golf field. His ruthlessness puts the fear of God in the hearts of his professional colleagues. When Tiger shows up on Sunday, sporting his usual attire of red T-shirt on black pants, the opponents all seem to melt away with tails between their shaking legs. As Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” So, it was with all of Tiger’s opponent. They all come armed with a well-rehearsed game plan to take him out until they see him hit the golf ball with such ferocity, driving it hundreds of yard further than they ever could, and with such precise accuracy, making one insanely difficult putt after another.

Anyone can knock down a golf ball into a 4 ½ inch wide hole with the ball sitting right at the edge of the hole and with nothing on the line, but it takes a champion golfer with ice in his veins to knock the ball down that hole from 40 foot distance while under the intense pressure of a Professional Golf Association Major Championship Tournament. No one does it better, and more often, than Tiger Woods when he was in his prime. He hits the ball so hard and so far, and he could birdie a hole from any distance on the green, that golf courses had to be redesigned because of him, by planting more trees along the fairway, digging more bunkers around the putt hole, and by placing the hole in the most usual places; it is called Tiger-proofing the golf course. None of these measures could stop Tiger. He ran roughshod over golf courses and he beat them all.

Before he was old enough to buy or drink alcohol, and barely passed the age to vote or obtain a driver’s license, Tiger Woods had already won 3 PGA tour events in addition to his first major, the 1997 Masters, which he won in by 12 strokes, a record-breaking feat that, until that time, was impossible to imagine could happen. He would go on to break many more records and record mind-blowing performances. By the time he hit the slump, Tiger Woods was the World Number One for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any golfer, he had won 81 PGA Tour events (2nd of all time), 14 Majors (2nd of all time), and 18 World Golf Championships (1st of all time). He is the youngest player to achieve career Grand Slam, and the second golfer to win the Grand Slam three times. No active player has had more major and PGA Tour wins under their belt, and no golfer has won more money playing golf than Tiger Woods.

So complete was his dominance in golf that it was a forgone conclusion that his wins would surpass that of Sam Snead (overall PGA Tour events record holder) and Jack Nicklaus (total number of Majors record holder). Then suddenly, everything came crashing down.

As most of these personal tragedies go, the unraveling of Tiger Woods did not start overnight, it was long time coming. The fall of Tiger Woods is not a particularly unique experience. What happened to him is the same fate that befalls many mortal men who, gifted by God with unique abilities and attributes that are lacking in others, begin to see themselves immortals. His implosion is eerily similar to that of many powerful men drunk on the elixir of their power and influence they start to see themselves as invincible and above the laws that govern human existence.

The undoing of Tiger was his weakness with fair skinned and skinny women. For a man who could with steely confidence sink a golf ball in a golf hole from any distance under the most intense pressure you can imagine, Tiger Woods simply couldn’t control himself when it comes to blue eyed and blonde-haired white skinned women. Not content with being married to one, he went out and had extramarital affairs with multiple others like her. Perhaps not appreciating the consequences of his failings, or not caring if he ever got caught, Tiger recklessly went from one skinny blond paramour to another until the day nemesis, that recoil of nature that cannot be guarded against, caught up with a most unwary transgressor in a very public and humiliating manner.

So, for the next 11 years, Tiger Woods was, as it were, driven into the purgatory wilderness to be exorcised of the destructive demons that have taken hold of his soul. With career derailed, his marriage ruined, his body wrecked with some of the most devastating injuries any athlete could have, holding up the trophy of another golf tournament was a dream he never imagined he could ever achieve again in his lifetime. In his pain and regrets, all he could pray for were the seemingly simple things that give life meaning and fulfillment. Bedridden for months, all he craved was to be able to have a normal life again where he could spend time with his two children.

Steadily, with the same dedication he gave the game of golf, Tiger Woods worked hard to put his damaged life back together again. Starting with his addiction to women and alcohol, he admitted to himself he has problems and then he slowly and surely put his focus on fixing them with the help of qualified professionals and mentors who had his interest at heart. It wasn’t until he has straightened out his private life that he turned his attention to his professional life. Gradually, he rebuilt his golf game.

During the time spent in the woods of rehabilitation, he encountered many difficulties and demoralizing challenges that could have caused him to give up. His wife had already left him and he was now competing against, and losing to, much younger and stronger opponents who had no knowledge, nor are fearful, of the Tiger of old. To the young lads on the golf tournament circuit, he is an old Tiger that has lost his roar. The man that once popularized the game of golf became a laughingstock in golf locker rooms and a butt of jokes on TV comedy shows.

Until he roared back to life this past weekend beating all the young lads that thought he could no longer bite.

Tiger Woods comeback victory in the Masters Championship should gladden us all. His triumph should be a source of hope to everyone who, from the lofty heights of fame and glory, has experienced a fall – big or small – into the miry clay of shame and misery. If you once enjoyed the exhilaration of living large at the top but now you face the discombobulation of scrounging for living at the very bottom, you should rejoice in the rise of Tiger Woods. This story of redemption of a fallen soul should warm the hearts of all those despondent about their present situation. It should be an encouragement to those who are down on their luck, and a succor to anyone currently going through their own wilderness experience.

Reverend James Cleveland said it best in the chorus of that old song titled, "Please Be Patient With Me";

Please be patient with me,
God is not through with me yet.
Please be patient with me,
God is not through with me yet.
When God gets through with me,
When God gets through with me,
I shall come forth,
I shall come forth as pure gold.

Be patient. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Hold on, just a little while longer. You are not what you are going through and you are more than the pain and misery. These heavy burdens, they will soon pass over. Your present travails will not outlast you. When God is through with you, trust me, you will come forth as pure as gold. The tiger in you will roar again.

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