Opinion: Tiger Woods has already won

And perhaps Woods had a feeling his destiny would change this year, as he tweeted “Happy Year of the Tiger” in January.

No one but Tiger could have imagined that just 14 months after his accident, the Hall of Fame golfer would be out of his wheelchair and competing in golf’s most prestigious tournament.

Sometimes winning isn’t about trophies. It’s about refusing to give in to adversity. Refuse to give in to hopelessness.

Winning is like Tiger Woods, battered but far from broken.

Personally, I feel connected to Tiger’s journey back. As a child, a car accident left me bedridden and unable to walk for over a year. The doctors told my mother that she might never walk again, but she was determined to prove them wrong. It was not easy. I leaned on my childlike faith, believing that God would make me strong again. And I went through rehab, and hurtful teasing from neighborhood kids.

Unlike Tiger, my dreams were small: learn to walk again, make the track team, become a cheerleader. I did all three. Since then, anyone who has tried to limit my dreams has a sidelong eye. Woods’ miraculous return reminds me of the lesson I learned early on: no one has power over me unless I allow it.

On Thursday, Woods didn’t win the first round but did remarkably well. He finished the first round at 71, 1 under par. He was four strokes behind the leader, South Korea’s Sungjae Im.

Still, as we’ve seen many times, even when Woods isn’t winning, he elevates the game and everything around it, as evidenced by the huge crowds and intense media buzz in Augusta, Georgia.

“There’s definitely a different feel to the tournaments he plays in,” golfer Patrick Cantlay told Sky Sports.

They call it the “Tiger Effect”. And he has forever changed the way we view the game of golf.

it’s hard to describe the impact Woods has been in the sport since his first Masters win in 1997, when he outscored his nearest competitor by a whopping 12 strokes, a record at the time. Woods was only 21 years old.
Since then, Woods has racked up 82 PGA Tour wins, including 15 majors. His last big win came at his most recent Major, the 2019 Masters, finishing 13 under par, just after his fourth back surgery and fifth knee surgery.

On top of all the victories, Woods became a cultural icon, one of Madison Avenue’s best salesmen, and in the process, transformed his sport.

Golf was no longer your father’s or grandfather’s game. Gone are the days of watching aging, mostly white men wearing “daddy” shorts, putting balls on their ever-expanding bellies. Fiji’s Vijay Singh, who won the Masters in 2000, was one of the only non-white golfers on the professional tour at the time.

Tiger made golf great for the younger generation. And around the world, young and not-so-young would-be tigers began to emerge, especially among black and brown players. Everyone, men, women and children dreamed of playing as Tiger.

It should be noted that history was made on Thursday, for the first time in 86 years at the Masters, we saw three black golfers at the tournament: Harold Varner III, Cameron Champ and Woods. Both Varner and Champ grew up idolizing Tiger.

Tony Finau, of Tongan and Somoan descent, also played.

“I’ve dreamed since I was a child to compete against Tiger, to play against him in the Masters… That’s what my dreams were made of when I was a child,” Finau told golf.com about the first time he played with Woods, back in 2019 in the Masters. . Finau said he first picked up golf clubs from him in 1997 after watching Tiger’s historic win at Augusta.

In golf, there is Before the Tiger and After the Tiger.

Before Tiger, most sports fans and sports reporters argued over whether golf was a real sport. Most agreed that it was not.

But then Woods came along, bringing his power and distance game, smashing golf balls, talking about training regimens and weightlifting drills. Woods dominated his competitors so completely that golf courses were suddenly being redesigned or, as some say, “tiger-proofed.”
Tiger Woods: Five-time Masters winner shoots one under 71 in first round after returning from injury

Most golf courses were stretched thousands of feet to try and level the playing field: Woods and his power play had made old course designs too easy. Golf became a game created for young and strong players in the best conditions. And any pro golfer who couldn’t keep up with Tiger’s tests would quickly be out of contention.

Woods made golf a spectator sport, and now when he plays, television ratings rise. He is the reason the media began to compete for broadcast rights to major league golf and advertisers clamored for his involvement.

It has also changed the game in other ways. In 1997, Woods won the Masters and took home $486,000 of the total prize pool of $2.7 million. Just before the pandemic hit in 2019, Wood’s Master’s win surpassed $2 million, out of a record total prize fund of $11.5 million. (This year’s prize money is expected to be the same as 2019.)
Woods has made millionaires out of the men around him. Before his rise, there were fewer than 10 golfers earning more than a million dollars. But by 2018, more than 100 players were over the million dollar mark. By 2009, Woods had become the first billion-dollar athlete, surpassing his good friend Michael Jordan.

Nike and other brands have amassed a fortune designing updated golf clubs and other products for the game, including more modern golf wear with tiger-red shirts and pleated black pants for golfers. (Nike even had a rule that no other golfer could wear Tiger colors on game day.)

No matter how you feel about Woods, the Tiger Effect is real.

But not everyone has enjoyed Tiger’s rise. Beneath all the accolades and big bucks, there have always been complaints, mostly from old-school golfers and fans who resented all the changes and fanfare.

Many felt that the power play ousted expert golfers less strongly. Additionally, Woods’ prominence put a spotlight on a sport that was seen as lacking, especially when it came to diversity and systemic racism and sexism in the game at all levels. Fortunately, The Tiger Effect has helped break down many of those barriers. But there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Watching Woods now, it’s bittersweet for fans like me to acknowledge that some of his greatest contributions to the game (power and athleticism) now make it nearly impossible for him to dominate like he once did.

Thanks to Tiger, today’s game is all about power and distance. He rewards the youngest, strongest and fittest athletes. And at 46 years old, young by any measure except professional sports, it’s unreasonable to expect Woods to bully and dominate.

His legacy has brought other formidable power players to the game, such as 23-year-old Joaquin Niemann from Chile. And now it’s Niemann and younger players like him who are breaking balls and winning championships.

One day, hopefully not too soon, Tiger will walk away, leaving the game of golf much better than it was when he found it. And until then, golf will continue to ride the wave of the tiger.

In the end, Tiger Woods’ legacy will be bigger than green jackets and golf trophies. For me it will be a story of resilience, dedication and courage to fight for your dreams.

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