Photo: Tiger Woods/Shutterstock
Standing Out, While Feeling Just Like Us
I want to get right to it here first and let you know that this will not be an article about the many indiscretions and mistakes Tiger Woods has made throughout his time as the most dominant and recognizable golfer in the world. I will be solely focusing on the player and the insane and cult leader-like impact he has on his sport.
People from every walk of life are familiar with at least the name “Tiger Woods”. After all, how could you not be? Even without knowing that he was, in his prime, the most feared and dominant player in golf, it is a name that undeniably sticks out as unique. Tiger Woods the golfer had one of, if not the most incredible career runs of all time from the late 1990s through the end of the 2000s. His grasp and mastery of the sport was such that in terms of betting odds, in some tournaments it was more likely that Tiger would win over an entire field of other participants ranging in size from 60 to 170. That alone defies not only probability, but all manner of logic as it relates to the natural world.
During this run as the world’s number one, Tiger and his team were able to naturally cultivate him into a brand synonymous with success, dedication, and most importantly, winning. His core sponsors included Nike and Gatorade, and walking around a sporting goods store in the early 2000s (pre-Amazon and when ordering something online meant it might maybe show up in two weeks) you couldn’t help but bump into a mannequin dressed as Tiger Woods in his signature red Nike polo and see Tiger branded Gatorade in the refrigerator by the cash register. This specific anecdote aside, the point being Tiger was everywhere and it made him and his success feel fully attainable to the common weekend golfer in us all. This Black man of African American and Thai descent had made it, in a sport that until then had been wholly closed off to people like him that historically was only accessible for wealthy white people. But Tiger’s talent was so undeniable, even they could not help but open the door for him.
Tiger Woods – Controlling His Own Narrative
Seeing as he was the most widespread and commercially successful golfer of all time, Tiger ignited a rabid fanbase amongst the golf community. For a long time throughout his prevailing success, he kept himself guarded from the rest of the world, not letting them into his personal bubble of achievement. Whether for fear of what they would find out, spoiler alert: we did, or that it kept him protected from the mainstream clickbait nonsense that could be drummed up about someone of his status he did an incredible job of keeping himself hidden.
In keeping himself so guarded, it only created more of a desire for his already ravenous fans to want to know more about him. The mystique and allure of a quiet and reserved athlete at the very peak of their athletic abilities was not only something we were not used to, it had never been done before. When someone reaches the level of fame and notoriety that Tiger had ascended to, the world naturally becomes very well acquainted with whom and what you are as a person. His success on the course only created a further desire for us all to know more about this enigma of a man. How he was at the same time the most well-known athlete in the world, while simultaneously we knew absolutely nothing about him.
Tiger dominated the television coverage of the day. Every golf broadcast was fixated on him as he continued to pull off the unthinkable dominance, and even cutting to a commercial break you would see him shaving his face with Gillette or hitting a Titleist golf ball. In a word, the man was everywhere. You could not consume golf content of any kind without a reference to Tiger or comparison to what Tiger did or would have done in that same situation. He became the barometer by which every golfer was measured against. Young up-and-coming golfer? Let’s see what Tiger did when he was their age. An experienced player winning their first Major championship? Tiger had 8 by then. It was impossible to escape his name or image in any meaningful way.
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A Whole New World
After the turbulent and selfish world he had constructed for himself came crashing down on him in 2009, Tiger took time away from golf. Due to both lingering issues from knee surgery and the end of his life off the course as he knew it, Tiger had been tremendously humbled. His sponsors all left him in the wake of his issues and he was trying to rebuild his game on his own. In this process of seeing the man we knew so little about have his personal life on full display and without the prowess of his on-course success due to his injuries, Tiger needed to start anew.
He had a few starts and stops over the next five years while attempting a comeback, but mainly stayed off the course as much as possible, attributable to a serious back injury that had continued to worsen over time. Seeing this person who for so long was a bastion of strength and resolve unable to finish or even start events, brought his fanbase and the golf world a new, albeit a broken version of Tiger Woods. No longer the odds on favorite or prevailing number one, Tiger was a shell of the man and player he had been 6 years earlier.
Something unpredictably magical happened in the wake of all the injuries and his chaotic home life, he became for the first time in his golf life, the underdog. This new humbled version of Tiger has existed for the past 10 years and as he ages, he becomes an increasingly more sympathetic and likable character with each passing year. Tiger finds himself in a unique position now, as he no longer has the talent or ability that made him a household name, but he still has the name and the memories we all remember him for.
This new incarnation of Tiger has done the impossible and has been able to recapture the attention and eyes and ears of golf fans everywhere as he tries to get back to glory. It happened a few years back in 2019 when Tiger came absolutely out of the clouds to win The Masters tournament, the prestigious major golf event held every year in Augusta, Georgia. Everyone across the entire sports world was glued to their televisions watching the unthinkable happen.
Impressively, he pulled off a similar feat this past week at the 2022 Masters, even without being in contention to win. After spending the year recovering from a car accident that very nearly required him to have a leg amputated, Tiger again captured the attention of the sports world by playing in his first event in a full calendar year. From drumming up curiosity by flying there in his private jet which was tracked by Tiger super fans, and then speculated about on every podcast and television show across the nation he played, and for the first day at least, he played well.
Still Dominant, But in a Different Way
Tiger’s talent is still trapped inside his aging and worn-out body, and he draws us into his orbit with these glimpses of hope for a return to dominance. The dominance he displays however comes now not from the course itself, but from his impact on the coverage of it. From mainstream television and radio, to podcasts and youtube, everyone covered Tiger’s potential to play last week’s Masters. After he ultimately announced he would be playing, then came the coverage discussing and breaking down how it could come to pass that he would be able to not just play, but win it all. Then the needle moved again when he shot a great score after the first day, but still did not find himself in contention near the top.
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We are obsessed with Tiger Woods and we can’t let go of the potential for him to be the greatest champion of all time. He trails only Jack Nicklaus for major championships, having 15 to Jack’s 18 and we tune in to see if he can catch him. There’s a sort of nostalgia for the past for all of us in watching Tiger, holding out hope that he will still be able to return to the form of greatness he once gave us. It is incredible that somehow the player who finished well outside the top 40 when the tournament was over still dominated all the coverage on Monday morning. The narrative around Tiger having made the cut and playing out the weekend dominated over the coverage of the actual champion Scottie Scheffler on Monday morning’s sports talk on tv, radio, and podcasts.
List it up there with his never-ending accomplishments that Tiger is still able all these years later to captivate an audience rooting for him to achieve relative success. He has had a wild ride of a career filled with many great highs and depressing lows, but the thing that has never wavered within him is his ability to inspire. Initially as a young man absolutely dominating one of the most difficult games in the world, to his comeback from injuries and issues to now recovering from a life-threatening accident he still has this incredible ability to make us care and inspires us all to chase our dreams. I’m not saying he’s a perfect person, but damn if he doesn’t have the ability to motivate the hell out of anyone in any situation.
By Mark Raymond
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Mark Raymond is a writer and screenwriter who believes himself to be the only person desiring to work in film who originated in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles. Mark was inspired to write from a young age and has always desired to connect and uplift others through his work, as those that motivated him did for him. Mark feels very strongly that the world could use a lot more positivity and optimism, and is therefore very aligned to the mission of The Hollywood Insider to not spread hate or gossip, but instead to build each other up and shine a positive light on anyone bold enough to put their heart and soul into a piece of art. In his writing, Mark aims to use his signature wit to highlight the severity of the more serious and pressing issues of our time, to shine a beacon of light through the darkness. A devoted ally to all, he seeks to inspire and use his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and let his readers know that while everything may not be great right now, one day it can and will be.