An open letter to Tiger Woods
Dear Tiger Woods,
On Monday Sept. 7, 2009, my cousin Mike and I drove from Amherst to Norton, Mass. for the Deutsche Bank Championship. We drove to see you, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and golf’s other top players score on a relatively easy course.
Walking down the seventh fairway and watching a couple of other groups play through, we could hear several incredible bursts of applause. The crowd around us agreed – Tiger is coming.
We decided to stick to a spot on the seventh hole, where we could catch you on your second shot on the par-5. We watched in the distance as you nailed your drive on the sixth – again, Tiger is coming.
You approached your second shot. We’d know how it went by the sound of the crowd, those around us said. From that far, we couldn’t see your swing or hear the head of the club strike the ball as pure as it must have, but we could see the reaction.
Gradually, the roar got louder, the clapping was universal, then an entire row of people leapt out of their shoes and the noise was unnatural. Of course, you had knocked it into the pin for an eagle.
Obviously, we followed the rest of your round and though it did not end as well as it began, it was some of the most exciting golf we had ever seen. There is nothing like standing 10 feet away from the Greatest Golfer Ever and seeing him deliver a ball with such force and skill as you did – TV does not compare.
See Tiger, you became all that we had hoped you would. When you beat the field by 12 shots at the 1997 Master’s, at the age of 21, as an African American, all firsts in the record book, you announced the arrival of golf’s Jordan.
When you won the 2000 U.S. Open, you broke six records. You won by 15 strokes – 15! If there were any doubts that you were one of the best, they were wiped away with that singular conquest. When we watched you meticulously measure an impossible shot on the 16th green at the 2005 Masters, gauge the slope of the putting surface, and aim your shot, we no longer had any doubts about your chance of sinking it. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
Now, Tiger, you are the greatest golfer walking the planet. You have inspired many to take up the game, including myself. Would I have had the desire to play once a week when I was younger with my father if I could not imitate your celebratory punch, if I could not imagine hitting it as far as you or getting the crowd to cheer as loudly as they do for you?
But, now, Tiger, you have become the punch line for jokes around the world. How many different times has a different comedian made a joke about Dick Cheney shooting the guy? Well Tiger, you have replaced him.
Regardless of what you have accomplished and will continue to accomplish on the golf course, you will be remembered for your indiscretions more than your miracle shots. Your remarkable tenacity and drive to win will fall to the footnotes. You have lost control of this story, Tiger. And now you have lost your legacy.
There are many who have said, “He’s Tiger Woods, we should have seen this coming.” They have said that the past few weeks have shown that you are a human and just as liable as the rest of us to make mistakes.
I disagree, Tiger, you have built a wall around yourself, thanks to an army of publicists and image consultants. The one incredible moment that we saw the Real Tiger Woods shine through was the 2006 British Open. We felt the same sorrow and joy that you expressed through joy. Then, we felt we could relate to a son in tears over the loss of his father. Now, we see that there is more to Tiger than golf, a beautiful family and loving parents.
Often, many, including myself, are willing to excuse a mistake. But this, Tiger, has not been a mistake, your actions have been exposed a second life. Your father once said that you were going to change the world. What would he say now?
As unfortunate as it may be, you will no longer be solely remembered as the greatest golfer ever, but as someone who abandoned his family again and again and again. It is our celebrity-driven society’s fault that we hold you to a higher standard, but for someone as image conscious as yourself, you must have understood the possible repercussions.
You must break your silence. You must explain – if it is possible – what has happened. Ignoring the story will not make it go away. Fix your marriage, Tiger and we can continue to enjoy watching you stake your claim as the Greatest Golfer Ever.
An avid golfer
Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.