Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chill On Tiger: Wake Me Up When Woods Wins Major

It wasn’t long ago when Nike, a marketing ploy for the world’s No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods, released a controversial ad featuring a quote that read “WINNING TAKES CARE OF EVERYTHING.” The worst thing about Nike’s creativity for Woods, who reclaimed his No. 1 golf ranking after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida, is that it created a social media storm.

At a time when he’s beginning to see the light, giving chase to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles, he’s favored to overcome months of misery and dismal performances by winning the Masters. There is, believe it or not, a chance Woods can win the Masters at Augusta National by Sunday evening, eyeing a fifth green jacket and finally returning to normalcy. It’s more likely that populace thinks he’s back now that he’s the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer for the first time since 2010. It’s more likely that citizens are convinced he’s back now that he’s won six of his last 20 tournaments, none of them major titles by the way.

But he’s not so convincing when he’s gone five years without roaring back to win the big one, as the golfing world is gushing about Woods winning three events this year, including the last two times he has played. So now we are supposed to applaud a once spotless athlete who is, once again, the heavy favorite going into the Masters. So now we are supposed to buy into the notion that he’s back, that after years in disarray he’s finally comfortable in his swing.

He’s playing his best golf for the first time since undergoing reconstructive knee surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and since his infamous sex-scandal. He’s still worth a lot in endorsements and he sells products in the best interest of his corporate enablers. For instance, even during the allegations and shocking secrets involving a platoon of mistresses, Nike stood by him and understood bad publicity means good publicity.

He’s poised to end a major drought, he’s focused on his game and hopes to recapture his dominance at a place where he’s won his first major as the second greatest golfer alive. After overcoming a bad relationship and after his ex-wife Elin Nordegren filed for divorce, he’s dating his new girlfriend Lindsey Vonn. But to say that he’s back is utterly silly, when he has not won a major title since his 91-hole extravaganza to outlast journeyman Rocco Mediate in a sudden-death playoff of the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Believe whatever you want, but he won’t be back until he wins a major. And, should that happen, maybe he will restore his damaged reputation, regain his form and exceed all expectations. The last time he’s put on a green jacket was in 2005 at age 30, when he beat Chris DiMarco in an astonishing duel for his fourth Masters title. At that time, the hope was to dedicate the thrilling victory to his gravely ill father who taught him everything he knows about the game throughout his childhood.

When he was at his best, he was a newlywed with a spotless image who dominated and clearly became an unmatched player in his sport. When he was the world’s most famous athlete, the guidance of his father helped his path to become a winner, as Woods embraced the pleasures of fatherhood, raising his two children with his ex-wife. Woods’ life has never been the same since the humiliation of a tabloid scandal and since he was embroiled in ugly extramarital affairs, but now he’s slowly getting over an embarrassing sex escapade.

He’s a winner, once again, and only cares about winning major tournaments at this point. By winning a major, of course, it cures and heals the wounds of a man who is trying to repair a public image. The thoughts of his scandal won’t wither or disappear anytime soon, and he won’t ever dominate as he’s done before. The public perception, among those who worshipped Woods before his transgressions, won’t ever be the same, either. People love or hate Woods. It’s one or the other.

In the meantime, though, a Masters victory would be one way to rid the stain of his infidelity. It’s fitting for Woods to have the comeback of his lustrous career at Augusta National Golf Club, where he’s had a ton of success way before the sex scandal came into view, way before we even knew that side of Woods, way before we found out that he was never an impeccable athlete and lived a double-life.

For now, that is until he wins another major title, he’s an overly hyped golfer only because folks wanted to believe he was the most recognizable athlete, the most sensational athlete, or the most popular athlete in American sports. If he was back to being Tiger, he wouldn’t have gone eighteen consecutive major tournaments without a victory. Thus, for quite sometime now, he’s showing he’s still the greatest golfer of this generation and has been greatly dominating.

When he tees off at the Masters on Thursday, he will have a chance to build on confidence and make use of rehabilitation to repair his ravaged career. So finally, he’s producing a little magic and believers are quick to say he’s back without even knowing the truth behind Woods. Keep in mind that Woods dropped from No. 1 in the world to No. 58 and just recently climbed back to No 1., which has created the unnecessary hype about a man who still clearly has an elephant-sized ego, a man who still is getting publicity from his frivolous Nike commercials.

As always, each time the Masters comes around, Woods raises eyebrows for competing in a four-day event at the most prestigious golf tournament. This time around, which people are talking endlessly, he stands at No. 1 for his 19th Masters appearance. And right now, Woods is long overdue for a victory in one of these majors — the Masters, US Open, British Open or PGA Championship.

As we all know, he failed to break par in a final round in a major a year ago. He unraveled in the third round with a 5-over-par 70, after he was tied for the 36-hole lead at the US Open. What happened at the British Open was more disappointing when he shot par in the third round and had four bogeys and a triple bogey in the final round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He fell short at the PGA Championship, beginning the third round tied for the lead, but then rain started to pour in Kiawah Island and he couldn’t bounce back. Which, in this case, he’s not back.

That was another full year without Woods winning a major. So it will remain uncertain, whether he’s back or not. I’m not certain that he’s returned to usual form when he’s still seeking to capture another major title at Augusta National, a place where the azaleas bloom in the spring. If Tiger truly is back, if he has what it takes to reach the 18-major milestone, he has to win a major title and then we can say he’s back. If he does win this tournament, it would be indisputable to say he’s not back, it would be silly to believe he’s not the old Tiger. The greatest golfing creature on the planet is capable of playing better than he has in a long time. He’s healthy, he’s happy and he’s reinvented his golf swing. Anybody can see that this can be a monumental weekend.

At age 37, he’s playing his best golf, but he’s not even close to being back. If he leaves Augusta with a victory to end an 8-year drought, then we can say Tiger is truly Tiger.