Tiger’s Song of Freedom


May 1, 2019

© Keith Allison

My wife and I were bopping around Nashville, celebrating her birthday on a gorgeous Masters Sunday. I knew in the back of my mind that the Big Cat had a legitimate chance to win, but I refused to allow myself to believe it. He had teased and disappointed us too often before.

So, I stayed away from TVs and tried not to check my phone. When I finally gave in and peeked at the leaderboard, I was flabbergasted to find him up by two with two holes left.

I promptly begged Mrs. Jones to take a break from the birthday fun to pop into a mostly empty bar to see if history could be made.

And it was.

And it wasn’t just history. And it wasn’t just a “return to glory” as Jim Nantz called it when Tiger raised his arms and screamed in victory. It was one thing above all: Redemption.

After all the physical pain and self-inflicted emotional damage, Tiger Woods had achieved redemption. One dictionary definition of redemption is “being saved from sin, error or evil.” Another is “atoning for a fault or mistake.” Those are fine words but the meaning that stuck in my head came from Bob Marley:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

In short, Tiger is no longer the head case that baffled and frustrated us for 10 awful years. Tiger is a golfer and a dad. And here’s the crazy part: I think he’s actually happy.

Thomas Friedman, the legendary columnist for the New York Times who happens to be a passionate golf fan, said it best:

“For the better part of a decade, he could not win a major until his back was healed and he got the monkey of his own misdeeds off his back — by becoming a good father and a better person to his fans and his fellow golfers. You could see him looking everyone in the eye in the last couple of years, and it finally unlocked his fan base. It gave them permission to root for him again, full-throated, despite all the ways he’d disappointed them. And that clearly unlocked his mind, and I am sure his body, too, so he could swing freely again.”

He emancipated himself from mental slavery, freed his mind and found joy on the golf course again. He was having fun. The pictures of him bear-hugging his son, Charlie, after the win – particularly when juxtaposed with eerily similar images of his dad hugging him after his first Masters win 22 years ago – said it all. Tiger’s a dad who happens to still have game.

I don’t care if he wins another major and surpasses Jack’s record. I just hope he’s able to live a relatively normal life and find some contentment. He deserves that after all the moments he’s given us and, of course, the zillions of dollars he’s generated for the golf business over a quarter century.

And let’s talk about that. Within minutes of his victory, I started hearing the question: What will Tiger’s comeback mean for the golf business? How will it benefit us?

Well, it doesn’t suck to have this kind of attention from a global audience. And he is one of the most charismatic figures on the planet. It’s a fantastic comeback story and everyone loves comeback stories.

And it’s one more thing that makes kids say, “Hmmm … maybe this golf thing is worth a try. That old dude seems pretty cool.”

But will it really make the cash registers ring like it did 20 years ago? Probably not. Remember that Tiger in his prime was a multiplier factor for an already booming golf business. At the risk of being a Bobby Buzzkill, you also have to recognize that Tigermania may have actually contributed to the overbuilding phenomenon that got us in big trouble. Tiger’s popularity led a lot of developers to bet on golf with their hearts, not their heads.

All that said, it’s certainly great that he won his fifth green jacket and achieved a measure of redemption, but I’ll stick to what I’ve maintained for years: Tiger Woods winning majors is not a substitute for a good business plan, a great culture of hospitality, investing in your golf course and making a commitment to growing the game in your community.

Enjoy the moment and savor his redemption, but don’t take your foot off the gas pedal. It’s up to you— not Eldrick Woods — to grow your business.

Pat Jones is the editor-at-large of Golf Course Industry. He can be reached at pjones@gie.net.