From Rooting For Tiger Woods, The Golfer, To Rooting For Tiger Woods, The Man

Like many people my age, the magnetism of Tiger Woods played a major role in my interest in the game of golf. From the electrifying drives to the emotion to the sheer dominance, when Tiger was on a golf course, it was impossible to look away. Just as sports fans stop in their tracks when a slugger is at the plate or an otherworldly basketball player has the ball in his hands, so it was when Tiger Woods picked up a golf club.

With the fresh Nike outfits and the signature fist pump, Woods brought a level of cool to the game that we had never seen before. Tiger Woods was swag before there was swag. As Tiger’s ascension took the golf world by storm, new demographics flocked to the game. Minorities, people of lower socioeconomic backgrounds and the young suddenly saw golf as not only something that could be interesting watch but something that could be fun to play.

All of these new eyeballs watched in amazement as Tiger piled up the major victories with a style and coolness that is usually reserved for other sports. From his first Masters victory in 1997 to his last major victory, a dramatic playoff win at the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods regaled golf fans old and new with his exploits. By the time the dust had settled, the achievements were staggering.

To highlight just a few of those accomplishments: Woods’ 79 PGA Tour victories are second only to Sam Snead’s 82. His 142 consecutive cuts made is a PGA Tour record. Tiger owns the lowest scoring average in PGA history, aided by his record 67.79 in 2000. Astonishingly, he has won 25.2% of his PGA Tour starts, also a record.

The dominance on the golf course correlated to dominance on the awards scene. His recognition as PGA Player of the Year (11), PGA Tour Player of the Year (11), PGA Tour Money Leader (10), Vardon Trophy winner (9), and Byron Nelson Award winner (9) are all records.

The first sign of trouble came in the form of a 2009 domestic incident. After Woods spent a year and a half working through the fallout from that incident, April 2011 brought another ominous sign. He suffered an injury at the Masters that would prove to be the beginning of a trend. We didn’t know it at the time, but we had seen the last of the Tiger Woods we had come to know, save for a 2013 tease that saw him win five times.

As personal scandal and injuries sent Tiger’s career spiraling, all those people who found themselves interested in golf due to Woods’ exploits held out hope that he could steady his off-the-course life and that his body would hold up. Perhaps he would never be the dominant Tiger who had amazed, but hope remained that he could muster some of that magic of his young career and pick up a few more majors.

Now, our hope for Woods turns to a much more serious matter: his physical and mental well-being. While details remain sketchy, his latest incident indicates an issue dealing with the pain that has plagued his body for the last five-plus years and the dangers of prescription drugs.

We will always have our memories of Tiger’s incredible accomplishments and signature moments. And many of us have our relationship to the game of golf itself as a constant reminder of what he was and is. Now, we are left to put our selfish desires for the return of Tiger Woods, the golfer aside, and hope that he has the fortitude and support group in place to achieve a happy ending for Tiger Woods, the person.

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