This is truly my favorite sporting event of the year.
Augusta National Golf Course is my favorite sporting venue.
Bobby Jones, the amateur golfer of the early 20th century who won the grand slam and never earned a dime in the process as a golfer; the founder of Augusta National and the originator of the Masters tournament - is to me, the most inspirational sporting figure the world has to offer.
And Tiger Woods is back. No longer an inspiration.
Let me state this clearly. Let me make this plain and inconveniently clear.
"I am a Tiger Woods fan".
I was before this debacle, and I am today as he readies to play round one of the Masters tomorrow afternoon.
He is clearly the most talented golfer on the planet. As clear as when Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. As clear as Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player or Pelé the most brilliant footballer (soccer player) of all time.
My advice to anyone who will listen is that when someone is the best at anything – and they exhibit that skill in a venue for you to watch them do it – please watch them do it.
Do I condone the behavior that led to Tiger Woods fall from grace.
But I am not qualified to judge other peoples personal behaviors.
|Chairman Billy Payne|
"It is simply not the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here, it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."
Payne went on …
"Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes," but certainly, his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change."
"I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile."
I have a friend at work who told me the story of travelling over to the Buick Open last fall with a young nephew. As he tells the story, they got to the course – Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan very early. Tiger Woods was practicing his putting on the practice green.
My friend approached Woods to ask if he would sign an autograph or have a picture taken with the young boy. No one else was around. Tiger looked past my friend, and simply said:
"I'm not doing that today".
End of story.
You might be justified in saying my friend intruded on Tigers private practice time. But really, how inconvenienced was he. Would it have been a great sacrifice to pause for a second to accommodate a fan and a young boy who idolized him as a hero.
As I see it – from very far away – but after great consideration – I believe that Tiger Woods went through a transformation. He went from a little boy who wanted to be great – to a human corporation founded on the basis of greatness.
And corporations have to succeed.
The person Tiger Woods became was the same selfish executive leaders we have seen recently exposed for their greed - like ENRON CEO Kenneth May. Only Tiger's greed was realized as lust.
There's not one of us alive that wouldn't want a second chance to prove themselves.
Not on the golf course … but as a person.
And while it's easy to want to see the great ones fall to Earth after being held up so high, think that you can be the better person for once ...
... better than Tiger Woods …
... and a allow Tiger his second chance to prove to you that he is indeed once again a human being, and no longer the tyrannical self-absorbed womanizing sexual deviant he was exposed to be over the last five months.
Imagine that, if it was you, your worst demons and most embarrassing intimacies published and fodder for gossip, convicted without a word in your own defence (not that he has a defence) – would you deal with it nearly with nearly the poise he has shown?
At least when he was visible to be seen ...
So this week, as this grand tournament unfolds on the most beautiful golf course in the world, the tournament most revered by players of this most beautiful game – and the camera cuts to Tiger Woods on the tee box, or fairway, or on the green leaning over a putt for birdie … I ask only that you consider Mr. Payne's closing words :
"We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us who believe in second chances."
I hope Tiger wins the damn thing.
But first I hope Tiger revists the legend of Bobby Jones. And remembers what the Masters really means.
(photo credit Reuters)
(Billy Payne Excerpts taken from TheGlobeAndMail.com article "Tiger Gets A Scolding")