Like a courtesan of the Gilded Age finally admitting her age, Tiger Woods may have finally stopped trying to maintain the crumbling façade of his athletic dominance. Last week, at his Hero World Challenge charity tournament, Tiger admitted that he might not win another major championship. Sort of.
”Anything beyond this would be gravy," is actually what he said, according to Golf Magazine. To help him celebrate his 40th birthday, he would like for us to shift our narrative to this one instead. Naturally, everyone can’t wait to join the party. Ugh.
To be clear, I have been fascinated by Tiger Woods from the time he was a young teenager. I stopped being a fan when it became clear that he had promoted a public persona that was a complete fraud, but I still respected his ability as a competitor. I understand how hard it is to write a golf story that doesn’t include or reference him somehow. But… it’s enough.
In any other sport, an athlete with Tiger’s medical history alone would be transitioning to the broadcast booth by now. That might be more fun for us, to be honest. Tiger can be pretty insightful regarding the intricacies of golf swings, course architecture and maintenance, as long as he isn’t explaining away a final round 74 of his own. I’d much rather hear that from him than listen to whatever prepackaged junk he's selling about how much he's prioritizing his life as a friendly ex-husband, single parent and soccer dad. (Someone definitely needs to follow up those statements with a question about what snack he's bringing to the games next weekend!)
Seriously, though, haven't we all been paying attention to Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, et al? Does anyone think Tiger Woods is going to win even one more PGATOUR event - unless it's a lightning-in-a-bottle type week where the top 20 guys all don't compete - let alone another major championship? Honestly?
Until now, the answer to that question was always a split decision. Realists and Tiger-haters (who are not the same, by the way) said no. Tiger-fans and media members in his good graces said yes. The unassailable justification? "He's Tiger Woods.”
Simply put - not anymore. "Tiger Woods" is now a 40-year old, injury-riddled, inconsistent putter with intermittent short-game yips and a driver he can’t trust. You know who else that describes? Hundreds of other pro golfers most of us have never heard of, out there struggling to keep their careers going just a little longer.
Yes, I know that in 2013, Woods won 5 tournaments, and he was a bad bounce and a weird ruling away from legitimate Masters contention. In retrospect, this seems like a miracle. Maybe even to Tiger. Last week, he gave us an opportunity to move on from "Tiger Woods." We should take it, no matter how hard he tries to control the message. It's time, finally, to judge Tiger Woods by the simplest of criteria - what he does or does not do on the golf course, and what his charitable foundation does off of it. We don’t need any more illusions.