By Gary Montgomery
PGA’s huge sigh of relief as Tiger commits to play in the Masters
Commentary – Tiger Woods, without question is the most analyzed athlete in the world. True, golf is the most analytical and complex sport in the world but it still doesn’t justify the fish bowl Tiger has had to endure.
Tiger’s struggles have been analyzed, diagnosed and documented thousands of times over the past few years and everybody knows what’s wrong. The game is so nuanced there is a readily available angle for every pundit to present.
It all began with the infamous driveway incident that led to his eventual divorce.
With that incident as a backdrop, the hateful media and internet attacks began raining down like a hail storm. Particularly memorable to me was one poorly dressed scribe attacking Tiger after a rough outing in 2012. “It looks to me like you have gone from the best golfer in the world to the worst golfer in the world”.
It wasn’t a question. It was a completely ridiculous statement. Since Tiger, although struggling was still ranked number 1 in the world and would remain there for several more weeks before eventually slipping out of the top spot.
Tiger responded to this gross misuse of journalistic access with a sheepish grade school like retort “I bet I can beat you”. It was totally disrespectful.
Enduring these kinds of ‘kick him while he’s down’ journalistic attacks daily has to take a toll on an individual, no matter who you are. Injuries and pressure to respond to the negative attacks only made matters worse and Tiger soon found himself battling his own self-doubt.
Meanwhile, the PGA started to showcase the “Young Guns” — Rory Mcllroy, Ricky Fowler and Jordan Speith and a couple of other 20-somethings.
At 25, Rory Mcllroy caught fire last year winning the U.S.Open and the PGA Championships which quickly propelled him to world’s number 1. Although Rory is the odds on favorite to win this year’s Masters, Rory has cooled off considerably, missing the cut in the Honda Classic and then depositing his 7 iron in the lake after an errant shot at the Arnold Palmer where he eventually finished tied for 11th.
Jordan Speith has actually played the best of all the young guns this season. Speith has one win and 6 top 10 finishes in ten events this season but has looked a bit fragile and missed closing out the round a few times when in position to win. Something Tiger did routinely in his youth.
Rory’s recent perils highlight an important point about the game of golf. One that Tiger’s detractors seem to ignore when they say, “He’s Done”. Golfers go through ebbs and flows. They win when they are hot and just make the field (hopefully) when they are not. That’s the way golf works.
The great Golden Bear won his last green jacket in 1986 at the age of 46. His previous Master’s win was in 1975. It took Jack 11 years to get that last green jacket.
It would be incredibly foolish to think that Tiger’s career is close to an end at age 39.
Tiger’s presence in the field at this year’s Masters brings immense attention to golfs biggest event. His detractors are betting on a poor performance and an early exit. His fans are thinking this could be it. This could be when Tiger actually hits the reset button and returns to his old form.
I say, all Tiger has to do is play the game. So what if he’s not the 22-year-old Tiger. So what if he’s not the 32-year-old Tiger.
A 39-year-old, healthy Tiger playing the game that he loves with confidence and void of self-doubt is better than most of the field. With a few good breaks and no living room officials making rulings from their television sets, Tiger can challenge this field and possibly win his 15th major on Sunday.
Tiger should let the haters hate and just go out and play.
Gary Montgomery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org