Tiger Woods and One other Horrible Flip of Destiny

The sight of his demolished S.U.V., sitting forlornly on a grassy Southern California hillside, belied the picture of Tiger Woods as an invincible pressure marching throughout the golf course to sure, thrilling triumph.

That was not all the time the case, and these days his victories have been removed from commanding. However a lot is embodied in Tiger. And on this interval of pandemic and relentless loss, we battle to confront visions of a crumpled vehicle, of him mendacity in a hospital mattress, of leg bones shattered and questions about whether he will play again — whereas nonetheless dissecting who he’s and what he has wrought.

What occurred to the sterling athlete who so many anticipated to reshape the sport of golf and even, maybe, the broader tradition?

Woods’s greatness, as soon as seemingly preordained, has been dimmed over the previous dozen years by beautiful falls from grace and by betrayal from his physique.

However many people nonetheless cling to him, even when it means greedy at shards of reminiscence. We bear in mind the prodigy who burst into view on the nationally televised “Mike Douglas Present,” hitting putts at age 2.We bear in mind his Stanford years and the Masters of 1997, the primary of 15 main titles, gained in history-making vogue at age 21.

Whenever you consider Woods, what involves thoughts?

Is he the famous person who lived for toppling information? Who grew up together with his eyes mounted on breaking Jack Nicklaus’s document of 18 main championships? Recall that there was a time when this appeared like an audacious, even boastful, aim. Then he set concerning the chase, rapidly drawing oh-so-near to Nicklaus, main after main.

Is he the golfer whose very presence in a largely segregated, upper-crust sport was not solely startling, but in addition a harbinger of the problems that body our world right this moment?

Together with his shimmering brown pores and skin, his energy and confidence, Woods blew down the doorways of the all-white nation golf equipment. Keep in mind the snide and straightforward method during which the golf veteran Fuzzy Zoeller referred to Woods as “that little boy”? Or Zoeller’s publicly urging Woods to not put fried hen and collard greens on the menu of the Masters’ champions dinner?

That was the golf tradition Woods strode into, and took over, because the world watched.

However how did he see himself? Right here issues get tough. Raised in predominantly white suburbs by a mom from Thailand and an African-American father, Woods was one of many first main sports activities figures to brazenly embrace the concept that he represented multiplicity. “Rising up,” he told Oprah Winfrey shortly after that first Masters win, “I got here up with this identify: I’m a Cablinasian.”

In a world that struggles to transcend putting race in tidy bins, that remark alienated a few of his most ardent supporters. But when he was chided for seeming to maintain his Blackness at a distance, it didn’t dent his reputation. Regardless of how Woods outlined himself, he was imbued with a sure energy. Without end the trailblazer and talisman. He put a torch to the previous order. That was sufficient.

Then got here 2009, and a troubling descent. It started with tabloid tales of the married Woods partaking in serial infidelity. Ultimately his deepest flaws had been uncovered: his illicit texts, his trysts, his journeys to rehab as he battled dependancy.

Woods was among the many first transcendent sports activities stars to emerge on the daybreak of the digital age. His aura, his race, his swagger and shotmaking, the membership twirls and fist bumps and miracle pictures — all of it was completely fitted to YouTube and the rise of sports activities apps that feast on fleeting moments and sensational emotion.

The digital age additionally magnified his troubles. Every imperfection was there to see, private {and professional}. For a lot of a decade, because the advancing years wreaked havoc on his physique and the surgical procedures piled up, Woods was a shadow of his former self. Heading into 2019, he had not gained a serious event in practically 11 years.

But Woods one way or the other remained swaddled in Teflon. The revelation of his human frailties price him loads of followers and endorsements. However a good portion of his admirers forgave and forgot. The continued embrace was a willful act by a public all too desirous to dole out second and third possibilities to a winner. Particularly a winner like Woods.

He continued to be a prime draw, a worldwide icon, at the same time as he grimaced by means of season after season, age and harm taking an ever-steeper toll. At one level, he was ranked 1,119th on the earth. However then got here April 2019, and the Masters. Summoning each remnant of his former self, he surged to victory, legions celebrating his fifth champion’s inexperienced jacket.

No one who watched that event will neglect it. Not simply the stirring comeback, however the sight of Woods wrapping his son, Charlie, and his daughter, Sam, in his arms as he walked from the ultimate inexperienced. It referred to as to thoughts the embrace given by Woods’s father, Earl, after the Masters win in 1997. It spoke, too, of poignant change within the face of time. Woods was now not the hovering younger champion, however he might nonetheless attain the best peaks, if solely briefly bursts.

April 2019 feels so way back, given all that the world has gone by means of this previous yr.

And now this. On Tuesday we noticed the stays of that S.U.V. and waited for the updates. We shuddered, remembering Kobe Bryant’s helicopter, strewn throughout one other Southern California hillside simply over a yr in the past.

We listened as a sheriff and his deputies described the wreckage, explaining that Woods was fortunate to be alive and that medication and alcohol didn’t look like concerned. They mentioned he had been pried from his car and carried off on a stretcher.

“Sadly,” mentioned one among them, “Mr. Woods was not capable of stand on his personal energy.”

How might such a circumstance befall Tiger Woods, who strode throughout majestic golf programs with a lot objective? It was a reminder, as soon as once more, that heroes are human, filled with weak spot, unable to dodge the horrible twists of destiny that stalk us all.

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