Tiger Woods: Close to the finish line

Ahead of the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas Tiger Woods made two statements that can only be interpreted in one way: he is not in the race anymore, and he has come to terms with that.

True legend: It is difficult to remain unmoved by Tiger Woods’s matter-of-fact tone: “To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to, that’s a little eye-opening.”   -  REUTERS

There is something heart-rending about a sportsman coming to terms with his mortality. After his horrendous car crash in February, Tiger Woods nearly lost a leg and it was difficult to see him as a contender again. But this was the same man who was written off following a spinal fusion surgery but returned to win the Masters in 2019. So the goodbyes were muted.

Ahead of the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas, however, Woods made two statements that can only be interpreted in one way: he is not in the race anymore, and he has come to terms with that. He said his future in the game would be “a little hit and giggle, I can do something like that.” No serious golf then. And with remarkable lack of self-pity he said, “I am lucky to be alive but also still have the limb.” Near-death experiences give you a perspective on life that laughs at sporting disappointments.

It is difficult to remain unmoved by Woods’s matter-of-fact tone: “To see some of my shots fall out of the sky a lot shorter than they used to, that’s a little eye-opening.”

When a great player departs, he doesn’t just leave a gap where an individual has been, he folds and takes away with him an entire era. Woods, a black man playing a white man’s sport (as he was described in 1997 when he made his debut), did not lead a rush of blacks into the sport. In 2020, there were only four blacks among the PGA’s 260 players. Woods never saw himself as only black, acknowledging his full multi-racial identity. He called himself ‘Cablinasian’, a mix of Caucasian, black, Native American and Asian. His mother is of Thai, Chinese and Dutch descent and his father African-American, Chinese and Native American.

Once he began the climb to the pinnacle in sport (his 15 majors is topped only by Jack Nicklaus’s 18), the racial and ethnic descriptions dropped away.

With fame and fortune came notoriety and infamy. The squeaky-clean image painted by the media was shown to be false as Woods’ extramarital affairs became public knowledge. Coming to terms with his morality was probably more difficult for his fans. Woods was a creature of public relations, hermetically sealed in his assumed personality. Early in his career he became a machine with conditioned responses. He became a PR Pygmalion, a statue created by the public relations folk who ensured that everybody fell in love with him. Even those who understood this fell for his public image as a clean-living high-thinking family man.

Now we are close to the finish line of one of the great sporting careers of our time. Woods will be 46 this month, and even if he didn’t live up to his father’s boast that he would “do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,” he has done enough to be in the mix whenever great sportsmen are discussed. That’s not a bad legacy.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :