Tiger Woods and the reward of resilience

I don’t really fancy the game of golf. It looks somehow too elitist. For me, football, boxing, basketball, wrestling, athletics and Rugby, among others, are more fascinating sports. But then, the personality, competitiveness and successes of American Tiger Woods endeared me to golf.

For years, Woods was the face of golf. In 1997, he brought world focus to the sport when he won his first Masters by a record 12 shots. As a result of this feat, golf players became fitter, prize money increased while awareness of the game swelled considerably. Without a doubt, Woods has been to golf what the likes of Pele, Maradona, Messi and Christiano Ronaldo are to football. In contemporary time, Woods has given golf a breath of fresh air, something refreshingly exciting.

Naturally, it wasn’t quite long before Woods began to swim in fame and wealth. Major sponsors began to queue behind themselves to have him endorse their products. Soon, the great golfer became superbly rich and famous. Meanwhile, as Woods was doing well for himself, the game of golf was equally making the wave. People of all ages, across the globe, became more attracted to golf as a result of Wood’s larger than life public image.

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – APRIL 14: (Sequence frame 5 of 12) Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after making his putt on the 18th green to win the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Soon, Woods transcended the game and became an iconic sporting figure, widely celebrated by sports fans across the world. He became the number one sporting personality in the world. He was loved, admired and adored by many. By now, he has remarkably transited from the 1997 rookie that won his first major to a superstar who called the shot in global sports. For years, he was world number one golfer, breaking records upon records. A star has not only been born, but a shining star is on the horizon soaring higher and higher.

But then, suddenly and like an overblown balloon that suddenly dissolves in the air, Woods world came crashing without giving any sign, at least to the public. It all began in 2009. Early that year, at the US PGA, the legendary golfer had failed to seal the win for the first time in his major career, losing to South Korea’s YE Yang. Unknowingly, that was just the beginning of years of many troubles for Woods. As they say, when trouble comes it comes in droves.

Later in 2009, news of a great brawl between Woods and his wife, over alleged extramarital affairs, broke out. There were reports of Woods storming out of their home in Florida, in obvious rage, and hitting his car on an object in a dramatic road crash that was to open the floodgate of more troubles for Woods. Found asleep at the wheel of his car at the side of a road in Palm Beach, Florida, pictures and dash cam video of a perplexed and bewildered Woods were flashed around the world. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was put on a diversion program, but from that lowest point, Woods’ descent has just begun.

Before long, women of all shapes, heights and colours began to come into the open to expose tales of diverse sexual escapades with the golf megastar. One thing led to the other, a bitter divorce suit between him and his estranged wife followed and eventually, Woods nearly lost all his earnings from the game he loved so much. Rapidly, things blossomed into a case of ‘One Week, One Trouble’ for the iconic sports star. His world was crashing fast! Not even his legendary dexterity in the golf course could save him.

Major sponsors started revoking their sponsorship deals with Woods on moral grounds. Suddenly, they felt the guy was no longer representing the interest of their respective outfits well. Chroniclers were already penning a narrative that captured the details of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great Tiger’. Yes, Woods, the iconic sporting personality, whom every young chap had wanted to be like, had abruptly fallen from grace to grass. In a twinkling of an eyelid, he had lost it all!

Wounded and embittered, Woods tried hard to get his way back to becoming the great golfer he used to be, but it was never to be. In 2013, his problem became compounded as a fearful back injury that nearly truncated his golfing career resurfaced. Many wrote off his career as the injuries took their toll on his form. His world ranking plunged so significantly that he dropped from formerly being World number one to being outside the top 1,000! At last, a star has dimmed. So, we all thought.

But then, as it is often said, it is not over until it is over. Yes, that was the astonishing account of Woods’ recent comeback that has continued to resonate across the world. A few days back, the Tiger roared back in style to global reckoning Woods clinched his fifth Masters and 15th major title to seal one of the greatest comeback stories in global sporting history. The 43-year-old braved his way through a closely filled leader board to win by one shot at Augusta for his first major title in 11 years and first Masters win since 2005. Earlier, in 2017Woods had undergone career-saving spine fusion surgery and sealed an impressive comeback season in 2018 with his first win for five years.

ST LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 08: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club on August 8, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP

His latest breathtaking triumph puts the former world No.1 just three majors behind the all-time record of Jack Nicklaus. Only fellow American Nicklaus has won more Masters, with six. Woods also joins Nicklaus as the only player to have won the Masters in three different decades after he clinched his first as a 21-year-old in 1997.

And suddenly, the world remembers Woods again. Characteristically, maverick American President, Donald Trump, took to Twitter to ‘celebrate a great sportsman’. Also, Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, dubbed his comeback a ‘dramatic one’. NBA star Steph Curry called it “the greatest comeback story in sports,” while tennis legend Serena Williams said she “was in tears” and said it was “greatness like no other.” Till date, showers of praises have continued to pour in for this Tiger, who has just gotten out of the wood.

The main lesson in the Woods trajectory is that nothing is too strong to stop a determined and focus person. But for his rugged determination to keep forging ahead and not to take to pity party, Woods would have become history by now. One only hopes that upcoming sports folks and, indeed, all folks across the world would learn from his exceptional experience to always turn adversity to advantage.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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