By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
When Tiger Woods walked up the final fairway on his way to winning Sunday’s Tour Championship, he – and thousands in a gallery that turned a golf tournament into a rock concert – thundered home a reminder that Woods stands alone in the discussion of the game’s all-time greatest players.
But that victory in Atlanta seemed to do more than cement Woods’ golfing legacy.
Woods – once again – transcended sports.
Yes, it was a great comeback story. It was the resurrection of a sports giant.
But that response? In a game long known for its gentlemanly and demure spectators?
That also was seemingly a moment for a bitterly-divided nation to rejoice together, regardless how little it truly meant to everyday Americans.
Regardless of how much Woods doesn’t represent the ideals of a politically correct movement trying to force-feed philosophies upon everyone.
It was a pent-up celebratory response – as if tyranny had been obliterated, and freedom was granted.
At least for a moment.
Is that analogy over-the-top?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Think about the last time you heard thousands of golf fans chanting, “USA, USA” at a non-Ryder Cup golf event.
That was a first for me.
The chants were reminiscent of treasured Olympic moments on American turf.
And they were pretty darn close to a raucous Trump rally.
I don’t know if there is anything to that. But I wouldn’t wager one way or the other.
Woods’ victory actually gave Englishman Justin Rose – who finished playing moments earlier to polite applause – the championship and a $10-million bonus in the FedEx Cup. Woods finished second to Rose in that competition. But nobody there cared.
Rose wasn’t even the slightest thorn in this celebration. The reaction had zero to do with America versus England.
This was simply an American moment.
The fanatical throng celebrated greatness. The people celebrated a comeback. And they celebrated an iconic figure – one with plenty of flaws.
They celebrated a once pompous, self-righteous superstar, seemingly humbled by the universe and now battling his way back to the top.
For much of the past decade, Woods’ cataclysmic spiral from golf’s heavens to PC hell, was a blue-ribbon example of the powers of karma, God’s will or whatever greater force of nature one believes.
His 2009 sex scandal caused mankind’s worst adulterers to take pause.
And it became pretty easy for golf fans to root that he’d hit golf balls as far out-of-bounds as his love life.
Woods’ wife divorced him, and sponsors soon did, too. One sordid sex story after another created a justified a feeding frenzy for every tabloid, as well as then-trusted media giants. Woods soon took a hiatus from the game.
Woods admitted to sex-addiction – another term for, as nearly every honest human will admit, allowing fame and fortune – and biological instincts – to trounce morality.
In other words, Tiger Woods was human after all.
Woods became a poster boy for the stereotypical despicable male athlete.
Fortunately for him and his monumental philandering, at least it came in a day and age when Hillary Clinton was still trying to destroy alleged sexual-assault victims instead of their alleged violators.
Still, nature’s justice against Woods was swift and punishing. It was as if a lightning bolt struck his golf bag, his back and his persona all at once.
Woods, pretty quietly, had solid years in 2012 and 2013, winning a combined five events. But it just wasn’t the same. The aura and hysteria around him was gone.
His back and game soon left as well.
During the past five years, Woods looked finished as a major factor. He appeared humbled by the only thing tougher to conquer than golf.
Funny thing about life, though. It allows second chances. Actually, many more.
Rush from judgment
Woods once again showed glimmers of past greatness early this year. The comeback made progress, and his runs at the British Open and PGA Championship refueled his die-hards – and made the sports world take notice.
And then came Sunday.
And the sports world seemed to converge with one rooting interest.
That 18th hole was mesmerizing. That massive wave of humanity rushed the green as if it were a coliseum stage for a sold-out rock concert.
It was Beatle-esque, and I can’t imagine anyone in the throng was thinking about Woods the pompous womanizer.
And despite all his public shortcomings of the past decade – and even despite his celebrity-tabooed support of our country’s presidency, no matter the man in office – Woods, again was the most iconic figure in America.
And isn’t that truly so American?
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports journalism for four decades and has won more sports journalism awards than anyone in state history. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.