Tiger Woods…the Underdog?

Image from golfweek.com

Tiger Woods at Bridgestone 2011

Yesterday we witnessed the moment we all knew was coming sooner or later.  No, not the plunging stock market, you fool! Tiger’s return to golf!

The media, of course, built this up like he was a returning messiah and I heard so much news about Tiger yesterday that I didn’t even know there was a huge market correction until about 10:30 pm.  But here’s the thing: Tiger didn’t play like a returning golf god.  He had some pretty wild shots off the tee through 9 and the first few holes he worked his pretty little keister off to make par.  As the round continued he loosened up a bit and made a few really nice birdies and he only bogeyed one hole (unlike poor, adorable Darren Clarke, bless his heart). After his round he looked more comfortable in his own skin than I think I’ve ever seen him.  EVER.

Tiger’s return to golf wasn’t as amazing as some expected.  He played some decent golf, got himself out of some really crappy situations, and finished his round at 2-under.  Plus, he hit that beautiful 31 foot putt.  Good?  Yes.  Epic return? Not really.

Now, I’ve never been a Tiger fan. I understand what he’s done for the game of golf.  For the past 13 years, he’s made golf what it is.   And he draws crowds like Michaelangelo drew naked dudes.  I’m simply not a fan of Tiger because I enjoy rooting for the underdog.

Now I’m confused, though, because it seems like Tiger is the underdog.

Ok, so underdog isn’t really the word I should use.  He’ll never be an underdog because he’s one of the most talented golfers to ever walk the course.  But he’s had a lot of problems these past couple of years.  He hasn’t won a major tournament since 2009.  He’s just coming off knee and achilles injuries and his personal life is being scrutinized by everyone.  He fired his longtime caddie who is now the caddie for the guy sitting on top of the leaderboard after day one.   And the media is making a huge deal out of his return, but he only had an average round yesterday. The fact that there are so many people doubting Tiger’s ability to play at his previous level make me want to root for the guy.  And I loved it when the reporters asked him about that shot out of the rough on 16.  “Oh, I smoked it,” he answered with a huge smile.

I think Tiger will master the game and once again claim the top spot in the golf world, but I hope he keeps this laid back attitude he’s developed.  It makes him so much more interesting than when he’s acting smug and untouchable.  This new attitude may change the minds of at least some of his naysayers.  I know it had a part in changing mine.

(written by Beth Seaman)

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