Thursday, April 22, 2010
Behind The Scoreboard
Just like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it was inevitable that Tiger would return to the links. When Tiger Woods released to the media that he would choose the Masters as the venue for returning to the stage which he had performed and ruled for over a decade, the real mystery was what type of reception would he receive.
Shortly after the announcement that he would again be stepping outside with clubs, Woods became his own spokesperson, showing up time and again in media spots, handing out mea culpas in abundance and pleading for patience, understanding and forgiveness.
If the number one golfer in the world was counting on the gallery at Augusta National being more accepting of his repentant persona, he guessed right. The crowds which thronged the golfers’ paths were jubilant. There didn’t seem to be any hint of condemnation. Factually, they were consistent in their vociferous admiration of all the contestants. The roaring applause shook the greens and glens repeatedly.
Woods, who had promised the media that he would be in complete control of his emotions, pretty much delivered on that promise. He looked like the stalking Tiger of old, pleasing the fans at every hole, not showing any signs of a five-month layoff. Well, until he reached the fourth round. Tiger had come to Augusta National to claim his fifth green jacket and perhaps exorcise a few demons in the process.
Even the talk of deep-pocket sponsors who had begun to drift away from Woods was dispelled somewhat when Nike released a commercial starring Woods (and the voice of his father), to coincide with the start of the Masters.
The field of competitors surrounding Woods had no disparaging remarks about the golfer who routinely earns upwards of thirty million iron men each year. Most stated that the tour would not be the same without Tiger’s participation. And all the top golfers in the world were on this course. For three rounds the entire field had chased Lee Westwood, who was being chased by Phil Mickelson, K.J. Choi and Woods.
Yours truly has watched a lot of Masters, but this one had a distinct flavor not matched by any other. Suspense could be felt at every fairway. It had cheers, tears but no jeers. Actually, there was a “Tiger, you suck!” epithet picked up by a mike in close proximity but it was uttered by Tiger.
And Mickelson went on to overtake Westwood and earn his third green jacket, and the tears came from him. Mickelson, too, had seen a rough year. The cheers were for him and his family. Another sports hero exalted. There were cheers also for a tarnished hero who just might have not only finished in a tie for fourth, but taken a step to repair damage to his image.
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