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A New Man

We prefer our heroes flawed. Our narcissistic penchant as the keepers of the flame of all things right and wrong is to place someone on a pedestal and then do everything that we can to see them off it.

Tiger Woods is a symbol of both a fallen idol and a redeemed one. It would seem that the recovered one will be appreciated on a level that we could not have imagined 10 years ago.

When Woods birdied the last hole of the 2018 PGA Championship two weeks ago, it produced the iconic right fist and arm upper cut which had accompanied the finish of his first 14 Major Championship triumphs. The biggest difference was that this time it wasn’t to win (Brooks Koepka had a two shot lead with only the last hole to play) but to celebrate his return to playing greatness.

It has been as if someone had given Picasso a blank canvas but had taken away his paints, and now those paints had been returned.

Woods also then did something that he never would have dreamed of doing at the height of his powers. After signing his scorecard, the 42-year old with the receding hairline, waited for Koepka to finish his round and stayed there to congratulate him. The Woods of 10 years ago would never have dreamed of doing something like that. The lessons that we learn from our darkest moments, are those indelibly etched into our souls.

If you think back to the 2009 Thanksgiving fire hydrant and ensuing collapse and disgrace that the world’s most popular athlete endured, it is hard to image a time like this now. Include me in the number who have vilified Woods for his transgressions but who amongst us are without flaw? Do not even the most egregious sins deserve absolution?

Woods has had four major back surgeries. For a professional golfer, just having one of those procedures can mean the end of your career. Woods has had four. He has talked openly about both the pain that he endured and the worry that he would never be able to play again, let alone compete at the game’s highest level.

Tiger Woods may never win another Major, but he has come to a remarkable place in his life. Once an aloof and arrogant loner he is now an approachable and engaging icon who relishes his role as both superstar and mentor. He is an extraordinary father who dotes on his children Sam and Charlie and the passage of time and tide has worn away the hard veneer that once encased him.

He plays with a joy that he has never allowed us to see and soaks up each minute that he is in the spotlight. A once monosyllabic Woods treated interviews like a root canal appointment but is now engaging and offers thoughtful answers to questions. His renaissance has been filled with adversity and was years in the making but this is indeed a new Tiger. Like all of us, a flawed human, but one who has tried to change and evolve. He just had to do it with the whole world watching.

Because greatness is defined in many ways and while winning 14 Majors by the time you are 32 years old is amazing, becoming revered is worth far more.