Eldrick Tont Woods, better known as Tiger Woods, is back. Sort of. Based on winning his third PGA-rated tournament of 2013 this past Monday (because of a weather delay), he is again the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, for the 11th time.
He first became the No. 1 golfer in 1999, and since then has held that ranking longer than any other golfer in history–first for 264 consecutive weeks, and then from 2005 to 2010, for 281 consecutive weeks, essentially 12 years in total, and he has regained it again. His victory on Monday in the Arnold Palmer Open in Orlando, Fla., was his eighth in that particular tournament, which is another record.
Palmer, who always congratulates the winner with a handshake, a check and a blue sports jacket, quipped that Tiger seems to own that specific golf real estate, and he seems to similarly own the No. 1 spot.
Of course, not everyone cares about this turn of events. Tiger lost much of his luster and public appeal as a result of his series of marriage peccadilloes and subsequent loss of concentration and golf form. He could do nothing in golf tournaments for almost three years except consistently lose. Many sports analysts gave him up for dead, and he certainly did not intimidate anyone on the golf course anymore.
Youngsters barely dry behind the ears were beating him regularly, and he was no longer a reliable asset on Ryder Cup teams, which is a test of international golf mastery between European and American players. As close as he had come to sports immortality since 1997, now he was a mere mortal hacking it out like a weekend duffer. The Greek god of golf had crashed and burned from the sky and looked very ordinary. One analyst said, regarding Tiger’s golf game, that Tiger was sealed in a cemetery casket, his game deader than last decade’s news.
To this new legion of doubters, a comeback seemed totally out of the question–he just seemed to have permanently lost it on the links. His mojo had run away.
Well, strike up the band for those who still can, no matter what others say. He’s back and roaring loudly.
Black folks, always fickle to those who seem to stay in high cotton long enough to gag on the stuff and who seem obsessed with White women (remember O.J.?), had mostly moved on once Tiger started getting his clock cleaned. There was an almost collective ho-hum. He had tried to diss being Black, many said out loud or just nodded knowingly, but in the end learned what we all do eventually, it ain’t what you say you are that matters most, only what we perceive you to be by loser’s standards when you’re down and out.
But Black folks love an underdog–someone who dangles over the side of the cliff but who somehow finds a way to climb back from the edge of total disaster. So, here’s Tiger’s second coming and even the ho-hummers are already practicing a new tune. If Tiger wins the Master’s next month in Georgia, the cheering will reach Obama-level heights.
A victory in the Master’s this year, very possible with Tiger’s newly rediscovered putting stroke, would also place Tiger right behind Jack Nicklaus in the golf record books for most golf majors won (Master’s, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, British Open). Jack Nicklaus ended his career with 18. Tiger currently has 14. Nobody else is even close.
Nicklaus is the Babe Ruth of golf and has set the bar of golf greatness very high. Earl Woods, Tigers’ father and initial golf mentor, trained Tiger to go after all of the Nicklaus records in order to achieve everlasting golf glory. Tiger, the Hank Aaron of golf, has already won more PGA-rated tour victories than any other professional golfer in history other than Sam Snead, who won 82. Tiger has so far won 77 and is closing fast.
At 37 years old, before he’s done, Tiger Woods seems destined to become the greatest professional golfer to ever play the game. His achievements will be more than legendary, as many already are. He will go down with a legacy not as the best Black golfer, but as the very best golfer period. And the richest, if he doesn’t have to give away another $100 million to an angry wife.
In no other sport played in this country and other parts of the world will one person have so dominated play and set the standards so high. What a sight to see a brother from another mother fly so high!
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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