The incredible comeback of the Tiger
By Steve Alabi
There is no story like a comeback. It is the stuff of fables. It pumps up the adrenaline. It lifts the spirit of everyone. It excites unequalled satisfaction. It provides unrivalled euphoria. It energises infinite contentment. From the athletes themselves to the audience, there is a wave of positive emotions that can only be activated by excellence of delivery.
The audience laps it up, and takes possession of the comeback as if it is its own property. It becomes a personal issue. It resonates powerfully with each and everyone. Not even the rivals just beaten down from their top seats are left out. They salute their victors. They recognise the undying spirit in man. They acknowledge the infiniteness of the depth of human talent. They accept that man can push himself to the limits. They appreciate the fact that man is capable of overcoming odds and challenges.
The man who breaks the bounds to again mount the podium against all odds is himself flabbergasted. He knows he has just passed through the refiner’s fire. Like gold, a champion on a comeback trail goes through the crucible of fire and heat to rediscover his zest. He knows he has just sweated water and blood. Champions sweat litres of water and blood before that grace of podium climbing.
No one achieves excellence by mere flight of routine performance. Victories, especially comeback victories, come from the innermost recesses of the athlete. An athlete once used to winning easily and now reduced to second fiddle by either superiority or challenges is an endangered species. He can be easily disillusioned by the new experience of lack of success. He has a mountain to climb to touch that crown again. Those who take titles away from the champions never relent in holding onto their new laurels. It takes more than tug of war to retrieve the titles.
The enigmatic Eldrick Tont Woods, better advertised as Tiger Woods, has taken personal possession of the aphorism that if a man makes a better mousetrap than his neighbours, the world would make a beaten path to his abode with an out of the world triumph at the Masters golf championship in Augusta. There is no wrong time to hit the groove but no one really expected Woods to win at Augusta. It is over a decade that he has been battling to reestablish himself on the golf circuit without much success. His name had almost become a byword for grace to grass.
But courage is a commodity within the grasp of those who confront their demons. A man who interrogates himself to tears is most likely to find his soul again. For years, Tiger Woods found himself in the woods, stumbling from one disaster to another, abused and insulted, withdrawn and without honour. It was like the world was closing down on him. But he interrogated himself to tears and dug really deep to find his soul again. He now knows the two sides of the success coin. He has been to the highest heights of success and fame, and also to the lowest abyss of failure and shame.
After winning everything in sight in the amateur ranks, he turned professional at only 20 and incredibly won his first major title within a year. No one knows how much it feels to be at the bottom like him. For a man who in his career has been so dominant as to win all of golf top titles at a very tender age to go through the kind of challenges he has gone through and to emerge from it is the stuff of Hollywood script. In my judgment, no comeback in sporting history compares with his, not even that of the Greatest of All Time himself, Mohammed Ali who fought off seven years of banishment to regain boxing’s biggest diadem.
At only 21 years and just one year after turning professional, Woods had become number one in world rankings with an incredible scoop of three PGA Tour and one Masters titles. He has twice been the world’s highest-ranked golf player, first for 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and again for 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010. When the sun was shining on his career, he won 14 majors, 18 World Golf Championships and 81 PGA Tour titles, and broke records after records, including leading the money list in ten different seasons and being the youngest Grand Slam winner. Then the bubble busted.
He lost his game, he lost his career, he lost his wife, he lost his endorsements and he almost lost his self belief. He crashed out of the top 1,000 golfers from his pole position. He was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and got fined $250 and 50 hours of community service. His back developed complications that flattened him. He moved from one surgery to another, trying to find a cure for his unbearable pains and injuries. His world practically crashed.
At 43, and 11 years after his last major title and 22 years after his first win at Augusta in 1997, the Tiger roared back at Augusta winning by a single stroke to claim his fifth career Masters win and his 15th major. By sheer willpower, Tiger Woods turned Augusta into his personal Mount Everest. And the world is bowing in adulation. From Presidents to sports superstars, the world is falling over itself to worship a resurrected king.
Even though Woods is a Buddhist, it is quite appropriate that his resurgence has come this holy season of the Lord’s resurrection. It reminds the weak and the bruised that redemption is possible for those who fight their demons. It tells those in similar circumstances that he found himself that they also can climb back to success. This is one comeback that belongs, not only to the comeback kid, but also to the whole world. It is a new world for the Tiger.