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Want A Feel Good Cause? Pull For Tiger Woods At The Masters

Tiger Woods’ win at The Masters last year was one of the great moments in American sports history, considering everything he has meant over a quarter of a century, everything he has done, been through, put himself through. He got his green jacket and talked about the emotion of being able to win again, coming “full circle.’’

So now with The Masters starting Thursday, Woods, as defending champ, got to pick the menu for the champions dinner. He chose sushi, steak and chicken fajitas. It’s hard not to think of the circle he talked about and how it happened right in front of our eyes. Speaking of champions dinners, one early thing in Woods’ circle was in 1997 when player Fuzzy Zoeller made a joke that Tiger, if he wins, shouldn’t choose fried chicken or collard greens. Zoeller was rightfully crushed for that. He never lived it down.

Woods had to suffer that as a young man. 

Think of everything Tiger’s circle has included, and how he has been publicly judged and moralized his whole life. He was on national TV as a 4-year old. As an adult, he had to break through a wall as a young, black golfer in maybe the whitest game. And then he became America’s Child, as Oprah called him, and we decided he was apple pie and white picket fence.

Then he blew up his own life and had to apologize to us and go to sex addiction therapy. Then injuries and multiple back surgeries and a DUI.

This isn’t to feel sorry for him. He profited greatly and has been a beloved and historic American figure. Besides, he’s responsible for his own actions. But should we really have been in a position to judge every last thing in his personal life for our entertainment? And what is Woods to us now, anyway? He’s a human being who plays golf. But he still carries so much meaning.

His dad chose his career path for him before he knew what he wanted. Woods is like a child actor who never had to learn how to handle his own issues. But the child stars mess up and we never hear from them again, other than when they get out of rehab. But Woods is such a great golfer that we saw the whole thing. Every . . . last . . . step.

That couldn’t have been healthy for him, but at least we were entertained.

In 1997, the Chicago Sun-Times hired me as a young golf writer. I didn’t know much about golf, which was fine because Woods had just doubled golf’s audience, meaning half the fans didn’t know a thing either. I wrote every story about Tiger, which irked the original half of golf fans.

Woods was hyped and ready to get his first Masters win. I got to be there, and I still remember the feeling in the air on Sunday for his final round. Woods had a huge lead, and there was no question he was going to win. The air was engulfed with nervousness anyway. It was a little hard to catch your breath.

It was a prolonged moment, lasting hours and building all day until he made his last shot.

I got to sit in the studio when Tiger taped the Oprah show shortly after winning. Oprah gave me a short tour. She asked Tiger what race he considers himself, and he said he had made up a term “Cablinasian’’ for his mix of Caucasian, Indian, black and Asian. I had to guess how to spell that. I got on the front page at the Sun-Times, saying that the new black golf hero didn’t consider himself to be just black. Howard Stern talked about the article, as did Dan Rather. Tiger’s race became national news. The Oprah people called to let me know she was angry with me — as the show hadn’t been aired yet — for turning the interview into a racial thing.

A few days later, the show got tremendous ratings, which led to another Tiger show. Oprah’s people called to say if I ever wanted tickets to a show or anything, just call any time.

But meanwhile, every tiny thing of Tiger’s life was analyzed. Even I analyzed them.

Woods is flawed and human now, which is better than the plastic version created for him. 

Now he’s about to turn 45 and has won 15 majors, three majors short of Jack Nicklaus’ record. Woods isn’t likely to catch him. He used to hit the ball way farther than anyone else. They used to alter golf courses — Tigerproof them — put obstacles where his shots would go, let the grass grow longer. He was making the contours and challenges of a golf course irrelevant by simply hitting over them.

He taught other golfers to go to the weight room too, and now his body isn’t cooperating anymore.

When he won last year, everyone wrote about his redemption, that he had become a better person. So what is he now? A racial healer? A human being? The greatest of all time?

Let’s stop analyzing him and just let him be Tiger Woods, a man we can all cheer for.

Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in RollingStone.com and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for CNN.com/Bleacher Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for FoxSports.com and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.

9 Comments

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  1. Great article, Greg…full circle for you watching him all this time lol.
    Once the Big Three were no longer winning, and retired, the game it was still great viewing, but Tiger certainly re-energized it and as you say, doubled the size of the audience. A whole lot more fun to watch when he’s on the leaderboard (and chatting and smiling). Cheers!

  2. Eldrick sex addiction therapy what a fucking joke how about just a philandering dirt bag who disrespected his pregnant wife multiple times while she is in the hospital giving birth to his child. Does anyone know personally of anyone ever going to rehab for that i don’t. So he can draw a crowd well so can a car wreck i always root for the field not a fan but that’s just me.

  3. I’ve never given much credence to Serena William’s “poor poor me its so hard to be black in Tennis” or the people who made the same things up about Tiger. Both Tiger and Serena are blessed with one in a million athleticism and brains to go with it. I don’t pity anything about them.

    The problem was never Tiger, the problem was everyone else putting him on a ridiculous pedestal. If I want good moral fiber I’ll pick up a book by Dr. Gary Chapman or Phillip Yancey. But if I want to see a great round of golf at a major on a Sunday, you’re damn right I want Tiger to be in it.

  4. I had the opportunity to interact with Tiger on a regular basis between 00′-02′, working at Hilton Torrey Pines. I worked 5am-130pm, and watched his work ethic firsthand.

    6am practice, followed by intense weight training: Everyone said he repped 5 sets of 3 plates on the bench, aka 315. One on one, his personality was ok. In a group, he was dominant and quiet. Great poker face.

    As a happily married father of 3, I can’t justify or tolerate his indiscretions as a husband and a father. I do know he wasn’t allowed to grow up like anyone else, and was probably trying to make up for those high school, college years. Again, not justifying, just trying to relate.

    What I can say with 100% certainty as a Christian and a firm believer of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is 99.9% of people don’t go from the lowest of lows back to the highest level possible in 10 short years.

    Appreciate his greatness for what it is, and be prepared to never see it again in your lifetime. Be careful to judge what you don’t understand. With all that said…

    GO PHIL!!!

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