Sports

Eye of the Tiger

By NANCY WOO, ’15

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The time is now. The clock is ticking and the fans are waiting for Tiger Woods to reclaim his rightful throne of golf supremacy. It has been far too long since a player has dominated the game of golf the way Tiger did. Over the span of a decade, Tiger Woods was defined by his success and viewed as the sole icon of golf. As the youngest player to achieve a Career Grand Slam (winning all four major tournaments in one year) and to win over fifty PGA Tour events, Woods was generally the only golf player whom we all knew — and, quite frankly, the only one we needed to know. And then, the tables turned. In 2009, Tiger Woods’ seemingly impeccable reputation shattered into pieces due to his love affair scandal. This affected not only his public image, but also his playing abilities.

Yet, shattered pieces can always be glued back together. With his three recent wins and over $3.7 million in prizes in just five events, he has revealed glimpses of the old, invincible Tiger. And after his promising performance at the Masters Tournament, Woods is positioned to strengthen his ranking. So, will this be the year in which we see Tiger dominating golf once again?

From what we have seen from the past three months, especially in his recent performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it could be said that the world’s number one has definitely found his game again. The last time Tiger was on such a hot streak was in 2008, when he ended up winning his last major tournament on just one leg. He has improved his skills by completely changing his training and overall work ethic — something that has not been seen from him before. With his reinvented swing and solidified putting game, Woods has re-established himself as a threat on the grass. However, winning, especially in golf, is not simply based on the physical aspect of the game. Golf is primarily a mental sport — having the right mindset is essential for succss. After the scandal broke loose, Woods’ focus on the game was interrupted and weakened, causing his fall. Many people believed Woods would never return to his original prestige, but his recent tournament victories and current number one ranking have proven the critics wrong.

But in the world of Tiger and professional golf, a comeback is based on success on the big stage, which he has not won since 2008. With this comes added pressure, stronger opponents, and tougher competition. Tiger’s accuracy in his drives, the long-distance shots from the tee box, is ranked 142nd in the world and is the biggest doubt in his skill set. But what he lacks in driving, he makes up with his phenomenal putting. And Woods has shown that he is ready to step up his game. Recently, he has displayed a fervent desire to return to the top. He has even found a relationship with Lindsey Vonn in the process. Three long years have already passed, and Woods has never been more confident. Following his win at the Palmer Invitational in Bay Hill, he said, “I don’t want to become as good as I once was. I want to become better.” His initial calm composure, followed by an intense determination, is what sets him apart from his competition and reminds us of his golden days.

While Tiger Woods tries to return to his former glory, the opportunity to reclaim his former position as the “face” of golf is wide open. The world of sports is generally sympathetic when it comes to casting aside the flaws and mistakes made by an athlete, unless they unfairly enhance his or her abilities in the game. There will, of course, be scrutiny and criticism at the beginning of a scandal, but the headlines will eventually die down with time. Take, for instance, the case of Kobe Bryant, who was charged for sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman back in 2003. The story made headlines and tarnished his reputation significantly, but who still remembers it? Today, the majority of people and the media see Kobe Bryant as the player who is single-handedly leading the Lakers into the playoffs and who is the fourth all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Thus, there is no longer a question of whether or not Woods will be permitted to make his comeback within the golf world. Instead, the question arises of whether or not he will make a comeback.

Now we anticipate. Many believed that the Masters Tournament at Augusta National would be his time, but even though he did not win his fourth green jacket, his persistence and potential two-stroke penalty comeback gives us even more hope for a return. This is the closest he has been to winning a major tournament since 2008; if this is any indication, Tiger has a favorable chance to win the U.S. Open in June. He will prove to his doubters that setbacks do not permanently alter the course of one’s life. Although he experienced multiple obstacles in his career, he has shown that he can overcome them by displaying intent focus and resilience at tournaments. So, can the man who was once one of the greatest athletes in any sport come back and continue his legacy after falling in one of the deepest self-made holes? Only time can tell.

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