Ten months ago,
He was playing so badly, he was nearer basketball star Steph Curry – ranked No 1,928th after entering just one pro golf tournament (and missing the cut) – than to the world No1, Dustin Johnson.
Tiger’s battered body was reeling from endless surgeries to his back and knee, leaving him in permanent debilitating agony.
He admitted: ‘I was thinking, this is how the rest of my life’s going to be? Then it’s going to be a tough rest of my life. I was beyond playing. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t lay down without feeling the pain in my back and leg.’
Tiger’s private life was as disastrous as his career.
A year ago Tiger’s life was a mess. After a collapsed marriage and a slew of injuries, he wasn’t even ranked in the top 1000 players. And in May, 2017, he was arrested for driving under the influence of five drugs, seen here
His marriage had collapsed amid a slew of scandals involving affairs with porn stars and prostitutes.
And in May, 2017, he was arrested in Florida for driving whilst under the influence of five drugs including Vicodin, Xanak and THC (which is found in marijuana).
He pled guilty to reckless driving and was sentenced to a year of probation.
So by November last year, it would be fair to say Tiger Woods had reached absolute rock bottom.
Nobody, it seemed, gave him a chance of ever being a golf champion again.
He was over, done, kaput.
Only, Tiger didn’t get the memo, or rather, he chose to ignore it and refused to admit he was beaten.
Instead, he battled on, to the amused scorn of many.
It made no sense to anyone but him.
Yesterday, gloriously, he won again – five years after his last professional victory, 17 months after his last (successful) spine fusion surgery and 16 months after his mug shot was paraded across the world’s newspaper front pages following his DUI arrest.
Everyone said Tiger was done, kaput. But he didn’t listen and chose to ignore the chorus. On Sunday he won again – five years after his last professional victory
It was a wondrous moment of sporting triumph against all the odds, and a deliciously satisfying two-fingered salute to all those who’d buried him.
There’s a viral video doing the rounds on social media today that mashes up a load of Tiger’s most vociferous critics writing him off before his comeback glory.
It’s particularly savage because the critics themselves are so savage – they’re not just saying he’s finished, they’re gleefully jumping all over his golfing grave as they say it.
Now they’ve all had their hideously unpleasant and heartless diatribes shoved down their ugly little throats by a truly great champion.
As Tiger holed that final simple 6in putt to win last night, the vast crowd went nuts, TV ratings exploded, and he shed a tear as he embraced his girlfriend, restaurant manager Erica Herman – the woman who first appeared at his side when he appeared in court at his darkest time a year ago.
It was a moment to swell even the most cynical of hearts, a moment that showed why there is nothing more exciting or inspiring than live sport at its most heroic and unlikely.
When Tiger won, he shed a tear and hugged his girlfriend. The crowd went nuts. It was a moment to swell even the most cynical of hearts
It was also a moment that offered an incredibly powerful life lesson.
One of my favourite movie scenes is from Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone’s 6th movie of the hugely successful boxing franchise.
In it, Rocky gives his whining, entitled, excuse-making son a lecture in the street that all of us could do with hearing:
‘You grew up good and wonderful,’ he says. ‘Then the time came for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know: the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him , or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!’ I’m always gonna love you, no matter what. You’re my son, and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.’
I’ve watched that scene a few times over the years after encountering my own occasional ‘bumps in the road’, to remind myself that life’s not supposed to be easy.
Sadly, modern society is increasingly riddled with young people like Rocky’s son, wallowing in their own self-pity.
They’re the much-ridiculed snowflake generation, with a depressing tendency to complain about everything, get offended by anything, and blame everyone but themselves when things go wrong in their life.
Those who succumb to this self-indulgent nonsense (let me be clear, many laudable young people do not) could all do with taking a long, hard look at the way Tiger Woods has rebuilt his life from what seemed to be an unstoppable descent into oblivion.
I’ve never met Tiger but from all accounts, he’s not the nicest guy you’ll ever come across, either on the course or off it.
Rival players, officials, commentators, fans and even some of his friends have often painted a picture of someone with an unedifying tendency towards being arrogant, inconsiderate, aloof and difficult.
I’ve never met Tiger but from all accounts, he’s not the nicest guy. But those single-minded, ruthlessly selfish characteristics also propelled him to be the greatest ever player of a game. He’s seen here Monday, arriving in Paris for the Ryder Cup after his incredible win
His ex-wife would probably add a few rather more unflattering adjectives to describe the man who exposed her to such public humiliation.
But as with many great sportsmen, those same single-minded, ruthlessly selfish characteristics also propelled him to be the greatest ever player of a game once dominated exclusively by white men.
And they’ve now driven him to this astonishing comeback, when virtually everyone had stuck a fork in him.
Tiger, for all his faults, is a fighter like Rocky Balbao; a man with guts, determination, courage, resilience and a burning desire to succeed.
At 41 years old, wracked with pain from multiple injuries, his golf game in shambolic, humiliating tatters, and with his private life a scandalous fiasco, the easy thing for Tiger to do would have been to quit.
He didn’t need the money, or the physical pain, and he certainly didn’t need the endless mockery.
That he chose to fight on, and win again, is a stunning testimony to his strength of character.
It’s also a remarkably powerful message to every snowflake out there that moan life’s being so unfair to them.
As Rocky so rightly said, life IS unfair.
It’s tough, and can be nasty. Bad stuff will happen to all of us that can feel utterly suffocating.
You’ll feel like giving up.
Tiger certainly did at one stage.
But he didn’t.
He got up, dusted himself down, and powered on.
Tiger Woods is not everyone’s idea of a role model, for good reason; he’s self-evidently been flawed human being.
But last night, he showed the world what being a winner in life really entails: it means not blaming others for your own problems, and it means never giving up.