They are ubiquitous on Sunday afternoons at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession, all of these PGA Tour golfers wearing red shirts and black pants. Unfortunately, the man who made the fashion combination famous in his Sunday golf outfit was not among them, the legendary Tiger Woods was locked up in a Los Angeles hospital bed as he struggled to recover from the career-threatening injuries he suffered in an SUV crash last Tuesday.
Still, the moves are pretty cool, and certainly appropriate, because no golfer since Arnold Palmer has done as much as possible to increase the allure and financial power of golf on the world stage like Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.
For the last 15 years or so, Woods has played golf, for good or for bad, though mostly good. No, he probably won’t surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, which once seemed certain. Though he reached number 15 with an unexpected win at the 2019 MastersWoods’ continuing back problems and advancing age (45) appear to have reduced that likelihood even before experiencing multiple leg fractures last week.
Beyond that, his personal problems with infidelity and driving under the influence have long tarnished his once carefully constructed and controlled image as a sort of golf cyborg, obsessed with golf and golf alone.
This is where an old quote from his late father Earl, a serial filmmaker, cannot be ignored. Said Papa Woods in 2001: “A wife can be a deterrent to a good golf game. Problems limited to Tiger’s level can destroy him.”
Of course, the wife didn’t destroy it. The mistresses did quite a lot of damage, after all, injuries, accidents, and perhaps, just maybe, the price of fame in today’s celebrity-obsessed 24-7 news cycle world.
Another quote from Papa to consider: “You can’t have both. You can’t have passion, intensity, competitiveness and aggressiveness if you don’t put out your energy.”
Nobody has both forever. Life has a way of demeaning you, exposing your worst weaknesses as well as your greatest strengths. So Tiger fell, got back up, then suffered the most violent fall of the last week in what appeared to be an accident.
But a story told by former professional caddy and current ESPN analyst Michael Collins may also be the reason why we should all strive for Woods’ recovery and return.
Appearing on ESPN, Collins recalled a conversation with golfer Paul Azinger about the changes at Woods in recent years. In the past, Azinger has reportedly told Collins: “Tiger feels uncomfortable (on the pitch) if you are comfortable with him. Now he is uncomfortable if you are uncomfortable with him.”
So on a Sunday in Bradenton, Florida, many people whose pay was much more comfortable due to Tiger’s influence on golf got comfortable in a red shirt and black pants. Equivalent to that award, if not greater, is what happened at the Puerto Rico Championship – a PGA Tour event played opposite the World Golf Championship which takes place in Florida – where the entire field crew is wearing a red shirt and black pants. Borrowing a line from ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, it was possibly the best sporting moment I’ve seen all day.
Nobody is perfect. Not Woods. Not the late Kobe Bryant. Not Tom Brady. (Well, maybe Brady, or maybe he just has a better spin doctor.) But life is about evolving, changing, recognizing and erasing your imperfections rather than constantly drawing attention to your perfection.
Which brings us to Max Homa, who won last week’s Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, with tournament host Woods earning him the trophy.
On Saturday night, Homa appeared to take to social media to say he would honor Woods by trying to play his best at the finals of the WGC Weekday Championship (he is 22nd behind winner Collin Morikawa). Unfortunately, that doesn’t include her wearing a red shirt because of her wardrobe sponsorship, which seems to have gotten her quite a rebuke on social media.
Understandably tired of criticism, Homa ended up writing, in part, the following: “I love Tiger more than you guys. Promise it. Listen to the interview from last week. Red and black don’t prove it. A lifetime attempt to emulate the approach to the game.”
Anyone who is uncomfortable with it should make all of us uncomfortable.
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