April 26, 2019

Tiger Woods: What An Incredible Story Of Resilience

I found myself teary-eyed after the 2019 Masters golf tournament. 

Tiger Woods won his fifth green jacket and fifteenth major golf tournament. I, on the other hand, was a puddle of tears. How could I not be?

Here is a man who shot onto the scene of golf in 1997 like a cannon on the battlefield. He was fast, furious, and nothing was going to come in his way of scorching success.

Until it did.

Ever since he became a professional golfer—perhaps beforehand, too—Woods wanted to eclipse the record held by Jack Nicklaus of most number of major golf tournament wins. Perhaps Woods wanted to annihilate it.

The path seemed easy, at least for Woods. Fourteen majors were racked up in a short period. Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors was well within reach. After all, Woods was only 32 years old at the time of his 14th win.

And then the proverbial wheels fell off the golf cart.

Woods was alleged to have committed adultery. His marriage fell apart, and two kids were left to split their time between two households. He infamously hit a tree near his home except it wasn’t with a golf ball. It was with his vehicle.

From there it was as though Woods suffered from what John Lennon once experienced: the “lost weekend.” Over an extended period of time in the early 1970s, Lennon moved to Los Angeles—separated from his wife, Yoko Ono—and he entered a state of hopelessness. There was no music, only wasted months of debauchery and imprudence.

Lennon came to his senses. The former Beatle snapped out of it after a few years of his “lost weekend.” Woods, on the other hand, seemed to be drifting into obscurity as “that guy who wasted the chance to beat the record of Nicklaus.” Ambien, Vicodin, booze; it was all adding up to a “what could have been” storyline.

Then, rather remarkably, the comeback came into focus. With his head screwed back on straight, Woods began the process of redemption. He worked with several coaches, psychologists, and aimed to right the wrong of his own version of Lennon’s “lost weekend.”

But unlike Lennon, Woods is an athlete. If health got in the way of the comeback, there’s no telling if another major tournament could be won. Golf is not guitar playing or singing.

Unlucky as it was, health became the new bunker for Woods. In fact, the PGA set up a site to list the entirety of his injuries.

Multiple back operations were needed not to play golf, but simply to walk without pain. Woods just wanted to pick up his kids, maybe give them a hug. The ordeal would have been excruciating, particularly if you have the drive—pun intended—of Woods.

He last won a major—the US Open—in 2008. As his personal life careened off a cliff and his health deteriorated, the quest to beat Nicklaus’s record lost interest with the media and golf enthusiasts. There was a five-year period when he didn’t win a single tournament, let alone a major. This is Tiger Woods! He always wins.

Fast forward to Sunday, April 14, 2019. Wearing his customary red Nike shirt for the occasion, he willed himself to the win in Augusta, Georgia. It was one of sport’s most incredible moments. The hero was back, conquering a multitude of terrors that laid in his path for nearly a decade.

You don’t even have to be a golf fan to be moved by the moment. And that moment taught us a few lessons.

Woods expression of love for his children was touching, if not utterly moving. Coming off of the 18th green you could see how incredibly poignant it was for Woods to hug those children, to share the moment of vanquished demons.

Hugs aside, the moment also teaches us the importance of resiliency. Woods has earned millions of dollars over his career. He doesn’t have to work. But for ten years, he willed his way from tragedy, stupidity, disappointment and unhealthiness to become a champion, again. The sweat, pain and tears he must have endured getting back to the summit are almost incalculable. Grit for the win!

And finally, what Woods also exhibited was humility. When he was younger and winning tournaments week after week, there was a wicked level of cockiness in his game, his demeanour. These days, and particularly after his latest Masters win, you can see how much more humble he acts with others. Modesty is oft overlooked as an important trait of genuine leadership.

Love, resiliency and humility: three traits we can learn from Tiger Woods on the occasion of his 15th major win.

I cried a few tears for Woods. I’m not ashamed, either. We all have our demons. It’s great to have another example through Woods of how to overcome them.

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