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Tuesday, May 7,2019

Redemption Thy Name is Sports

By Mark Tudino  
About seven years ago, when I first began this column, I wrote about the saga of the then world’s best golfer who was discovered to be a serial philanderer, was soon separated from his wife, and in the process, lost not only an estimated 100 million dollars in the subsequent divorce, but also the adulation and respect of many a sports fan. He was vilified as a phony, lost countless endorsements, and was relegated to alsoran status following a series of injuries. Still, I wondered: If his family could forgive him (which they did), why couldn’t the sporting public? That was Tiger Woods’ life.


Fast forward to present day and specifically to Augusta, Georgia, site of the annual Masters Golf tournament, one of the most prestigious events on the PGA Tour calendar. And wouldn’t you know it: The patrons were going crazy for the tournament´s eventual winner, a 43-year old balding, divorced father of two, who just 24 months earlier couldn’t get off the couch, much less swing a club. His back injuries (along with a host of other physical setbacks) were to the point where a spinal fusion (a procedure so complicated surgeons literally fuse two or more joints together in your back so a person can gain some form of mobility) was undertaken. Forget golf, the guy just wanted to get out of bed without falling down; across the spectrum, voices suggested it was time to quit, that he was tarnishing whatever legacy he still retained.

But Woods refused. Because what makes guys like him different from the average Joe (or Jane), apart from their physical gifts, is an indomitable will to win. These people don’t just want to survive, they want to thrive. And so the long road back began: first with intensive therapy, then simple golf drills, followed by cautious practice rounds, all leading up to re-entry into competitive golf. Years would pass before he would become relevant, but when he did a fascinating thing happened. The very people who rooted against him before, now rooted hardest for him to win. Why? Because it’s all about redemption. The comeback. Winning against great odds. An ideal as American as Horatio Alger, Audie Murphy or Rocky Balboa.

It’s been done countless times, both in and out of the sporting arena. Golfer Ben Hogan and boxer Muhammad Ali rebounded from great setbacks to achieve lasting fame and admiration. Politicians, actors and business leaders can lay claim to the same type of success. So I suppose it’s only fitting, in this time of Spring and rebirth, that Tiger Woods joins that club. Keep that thought in mind later this month when Woods competes at the PGA Championship in New York, at a course where he’s already won. Who knows? This latest redemption tour might just have a long run.


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