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A decade in the dark, an eternity in the sun: Tiger Woods’ extraordinary self-belief has assured his star will forever burn bright

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Tiger Woods stated following his Masters victory on Sunday that the moment hadn’t fully sunk in. A sentiment which I’m sure anyone involved in the sport will echo. It was an exhausting four days, and for Tiger Woods and his fans, of which I am one, an incredible and emotional one, after a great decade of struggle.

The Masters has always been the biggest tournament in the sport in my eyes. Falling many times on Easter weekend, traveling to the west of Ireland for a “family weekend” often turned in to myself staying up late as a kid, gripped to the tiny television and limited coverage on offer, urging Tiger on to win the green jacket.

Wearing a ‘TW’ cap, and nervously waiting until the coverage would begin to check the leaderboard, and then anxiously sitting through the four hours of coverage was a ritual. Woods had me in awe as a kid, transforming the game of golf, into what was a fringe sport at the very best in my generation’s eyes, into compelling viewing.

From 2008 at Torrey Pines, until Augusta National in 2019, I, like every other golf fan, had been waiting for Woods to put every setback behind him and claim that elusive 15th major. On Sunday he completed the greatest comeback that you will ever see in sport, and that achievement is a testament to the man’s unrelenting and unwavering self-belief.

I look back at Thanksgiving Day 2009, and the subsequent squalid fallout, which turned Tiger Woods from being universally loved to a divisive figure. The vitriol he received at that time and over the following months left me confused. After all, Woods was hardly the first sports star to have made mistakes in his personal life.

The standard view of those who then saw Woods as the devil incarnate was that he had manufactured an image of perfection, which had all been phony. Making a case against that claim was difficult, though I gave it my best shot.

There is no doubt that Woods’ personal life being exposed and ridiculed made a considerable impact on the trajectory of his career. From winning six times on the PGA Tour in 2009, Woods sheepishly returned to action in 2010, a shell of his former self. Topping irons, chunking wedges and missing short putts, Woods spent the next two years looking powerless on the golf course, hitting rock bottom at the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament that had always been under his spell, shooting a four day total of 18-over par.

2011 was the first of two periods where Woods would be written off. And those who did so were foolish.

Nick Faldo had been one of the most vocal people in this regard, stating at the time while leaning on his own experiences that Woods would never win again due to the stress and lack of peace of mind he now felt on the golf course.

But the six-time major champion severely underestimated the mental strength which Woods possesses.

A three-win season in 2012 was followed by a five-win season in 2013 and a return to the summit of the game. There was just one issue – none of those wins had been in major championships. Considering Woods’ dominance that year, however, a victory in one of golf’s four biggest tournaments was surely just around the corner.

But approaching the end of that brilliant season, Woods’ back troubles began. The second period where he was to be written off was upon us, and this time those who did so were justified.

Woods would go through four back surgeries. In so much pain that he could barely walk, let alone play golf to a fraction of the level he once could.

As often is the case for those in the position, the knives were out for Woods once again. Colin Cowherd made the extremely odd statement that due to his demise, he would instead take Phil Mickelson’s career over that of the now 15-time major champion. While others such as, Brandel Chamblee, Hank Haney, and Tony Jacklin all took the cheap view that due to Woods skulling chips he now possessed the yips, despite being fully aware of the pain which had taken over Woods’ body.

During this period, it’s well documented that Woods feared he might never play again. Despite this, there was always an absolute belief which Woods possessed; If he could get healthy, then he not only could win again, but he would.

In 2016, Michael Jordan who is a close friend of Woods told ESPN

“The thing is, I love him so much that I can’t tell him ‘You’re not gonna be great again.”

Life is hard at the best of times. Self-doubt is natural, and the fragility of human beings means that often negative words can have a significant adverse effect on the aspirations that we possess. Woods not only faced doubts, criticism and calls to retire from those in the media, but also, if Jordan’s claim that he is a close friend of the man is to be believed, perhaps his inner circle as well.

For Woods to come through all of that, and to win his fifteenth major at Augusta National, is an extraordinary achievement. His self-belief over a decade where he almost entirely lurked in the dark is difficult to fathom. What Woods has now earned through his victory at the 2019 Masters, is almost complete immunity from the doubters and naysayers. He has re-written his storyline in the tale that is life.

Books that were published and documentaries aired covering the rise and fall of the 15-time major champion are now out of date. Woods has assured that his legacy will forever remain and be viewed in a positive light following his victory at the Masters.

The hunt for Jack’s record has intensified and considering Woods continued to believe through a decade of hard knocks that he could reach 18 major victories before he retires, then his confidence of doing so now must be at staggeringly high levels.

If there’s a lesson to be learned over the last 10 years of his career, it’s that you should never rule out Tiger Woods in any way. Woods has never doubted himself, or at least, he never doubted what he could do if he got healthy, and that’s why, after possibly the most tumultuous decade any sportsman has ever experienced, he rose once again on golf’s grandest stage to don the green jacket.

If Tiger Woods says he is going to do something, no matter what people or life throws at him, he will find a way. After witnessing Sunday’s success, you should not find yourself surprised should Woods now not just catch Nicklaus’ major tally, but eclipse that number before he calls it a day on what continues to be a remarkable career and comeback.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giannimosquito

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. dixiedoc

    Apr 17, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    It seems it’s easy for everybody to forget the “bad” Tiger. Self-absorbed, reclusive, antagonistic philandering a*hole. He has always been a great golfer but that is not necessarily the mark of a great man. Maybe his “difficulties” mostly which were self-inflicted, will make him a better person. That remains to be seen. Congratulations to him for winning the Masters and here’s hoping his seeming change is permanent and not a ruse to regain our adoration.

  2. Tom54

    Apr 17, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    My take on Tigers troubles after his life unraveled in 09 was this….. I believe before his fall from grace,that whenever he was on the course that he pretty much knew 99% of the gallery was completely behind him at all times. After he returned after all the affairs and the apology and all that I really believe he stood over shots wondering to himself “ damn, I wonder if this lady in the gallery thinks I’m a complete low life for what I’ve done” or if he thought everyone was viewing him in a completely different light after the scandal. I believe that it took him a while to get in that comfort zone of being Tiger Woods on the golf course again. After his great win this past weekend, I can safely say that he is definitely Tiger Woods as we’ve all known for over 20 years. A great start to the season of majors. Can’t wait to see who wins the other three.

  3. Mamaaaaa

    Apr 17, 2019 at 2:35 am

    None of this will change the fact that he’s a horrible dude, no matter how much he apologizes.
    The mother of his kids are nowhere to be seen. Nowhere to be heard from. The Mother of his children. Understand?
    How confused do you think they are. And what a mess their lives are going to be wrapped up in all the money protection and not being able to be normal because they can’t see their mother, talk to their mother, spend time with their mother.

    • bj

      Apr 17, 2019 at 7:31 am

      must kill you that hes winning and will keep winning, on and off the course. people can and do have the ability to change. some take longer than others to mature and learn from mistakes. hes made huge mistakes, but it appears that he may be learning from them, and is taking steps in the right direction learning from them…..and if not all well. BEST DAMN GOLFER ive ever seen.

      i cheer for him as a golfer and as a human to get better, and be better, as i do for you….try to be better as a person.

  4. Aleksandra

    Apr 16, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    Wow!! What an article.
    It’s rare to see such passion for a sport and even more passion for a great golfer.
    I must admit I’ve definitely had my doubts in Tiger’s return. However you can not keep “The Greatest of all Time” away from his sport.
    There are many great golfers, but when I hear golf, Tiger is the first that comes to mind.
    Good job Tiger and nice piece Gianni ????
    Love your passion. Never let any fool take that from you. ?

    • Big Ed

      Apr 17, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      Good article. Why is Tiger the only top golfer’s missteps are constantly brought up. Is he the only one with skeletons in his closet.

      Go Tiger with the “Red. Black and Green:

  5. Jay

    Apr 16, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    Sammy you dont agree?

  6. sammy oliver

    Apr 16, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Good Lord man, get a hold of yourself!

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The Gear Dive: Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf Innovation on Cobra Connect, new ways to evaluate good play, and the future of golf improvement.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The Wedge Guy: What’s your short game handicap?

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Well, that was a U.S. Open for the ages, in my book. Hallowed Pebble Beach held its own against the best players in the world and proved that small greens can really give these guys fits. Kudos and congratulations to Gary Woodland for putting on quite a show and outlasting all the others. And to Brooks Koepka for giving us reason to believe a three-peat could really happen.

To me, of course, what stands out is how Woodland elevated his short game for this event. Coming in he was ranked something like 165th on tour in greenside saves but went 16-for-20 last week. Of course, that also means he hit 52 of those small greens in regulation, which certainly outdistanced most of the field. Justin Rose was putting on a scrambling clinic for three days, but his inability to hit fairways and greens finally did him in. So that brings me to today’s topic – an honest assessment of your own “short game handicap.” Regardless of skill level, I have long believed that the key to better scoring is the same for us as for these tour-elite players – improving your ability to get up-and-down.

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have a handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn’t it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I’ve devised my own “Short Game Handicap” calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly neutralized. For most of us, our physical skills and abilities will never let us hit drives and longer approach shots like the best players. But I believe anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn’t matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to “par” when you are inside scoring range…regardless of how many strokes it took you to get there. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron or less, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or fewer almost all the time. In fact, I think it is a realistic goal for any golfer to get down in two strokes more often than it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let’s start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I’m encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score? ______

_____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
_____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
_____ Number of other holes where you hit a chip or pitch that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

Subtract #2 from #1, then add 1/2 of #3. That total ______ is your short game handicap under this formula. [NOTE: The logic of #3 is that you can learn to make roughly 1/2 of your putts under 10 feet, so improving your ability to hit chips and pitches inside that range will also translate to lower scores.]

I believe this notion of a short game handicap is an indication of how many shots can potentially come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve.

I would like to ask all of you readers to do this simple calculation and share with the rest of us what you find out.

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