Tiger Gone Wild

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Illustration By: Matthew Martin

It’s not unfamiliar for athletes to decline and seem to fall off the face of the earth later in their careers.

They get older, their play declines and they become expendable. Then there are others who make a bonehead decision and are pushed away and looked at as a shell of their former self.

I can’t think of anything more painful as an avid sports enthusiast than seeing an all-time great stick around too long. One could say that Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time (for now), stayed a few years too long with his stint in Washington. As recent as last winter, golf fans worldwide couldn’t help but ponder if Tiger Woods was done.

For the longest time, Tiger Woods was the number one player in the world. Woods has won over 25 percent of the PGA Tour events he has ever entered. When it looked as if Tiger was primed to go on a run to catch Jack Nicklaus’ major victories record, Woods’ world crumbled around him.

The outside perspective of Tiger was that he had everything: money, fame, a beautiful wife and he was at the top of his game. What more could he need?

As it turned out, Woods had a soft spot for beautiful women and lots of them. So there we sat. Tiger had a bum knee, was going through a tough divorce and his game seemed to be falling apart before his very own eyes.

At this point, many athletes would have packed their things, counted their losses and moved into a life after sports (I’m looking at you Barry Bonds.)

Not Tiger. I like to think that in my 20-plus years of living that I’ve loved and was glued to sports for every second of it. In those 20-plus years, I’ve yet to see anyone hate losing more then Tiger Woods. Woods has an unreal desire to succeed and an unrivaled hatred for defeat. The man may hate losing more then he loves winning.

The start of his on-course demise began when he lost the number one ranking to Lee Westwood. Woods then began a free fall to number 58 in the world, his lowest ranking since breaking onto the scene as a rookie in the ’90s. Everyone thought Woods was done. They thought that his game and knee had deteriorated and became so bad that we had seen the last of the once iconic Tiger Woods.

Woods’ drought spanned over the length of two years. Woods went from 2009 at the BMW Championship until early 2012 without a victory. Tiger’s luck seemed to be turning around in early 2012 and it all started at Bay Hill at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he had won six times prior.

So here we are, just over a year removed from that moment and the unthinkable for many has occurred. Woods regained his ‘Tiger-esque’ play, reclaimed his number 1 ranking and is the favorite to win The Masters next week. Including the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods won three times in 2012 including The Memorial hosted by Jack Nicklaus, and the AT&T National.

Now, a week before the 2013 Masters, Woods has already won three times this calendar year. Tiger won at Torrey Pines, where he seems to play well year after year, the Cadillac Championship at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational for a record eighth time. With the win at Bay Hill, Woods solidified his position back at the top.

Still there are the critics who say Tiger needs to win a major before they will say he is “back.” And there are still those who dislike him for his former off-course antics and affairs.

Who cares what he does in his personal time? He is a human being just like the rest of us. We all make mistakes and we all have the right to do as we please. His personal life does not take away that he is one of if not the best golfers to ever play the game.

So while there are others who still whine and moan that he isn’t “back” I say watch out: Tiger’s on the prowl.

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