Have you ever hit rock bottom?
You know, panic attacks? Hyperventilation? Hooked on booze, pills, sex, or food? Maybe you had some major credit card debt or ruined your marriage? Lost your job, got sick, maybe even had a run-in with the cops?
I bet you have. I sure have. It hurts. At times like those, it’s pretty easy to feel so worthless that you can’t see a way out. That’s a dark place and if you live long enough you’ll probably spend some time there.
Back in the spring of 2017, champion golfer Tiger Woods hit rock bottom. He got busted for DUI in Florida, having passed out at the wheel of his Cadillac, with 5 different prescription drugs in his bloodstream. He’d already blown his marriage by being a serial cheater, as the whole world read about in all its gory details. For a brief spell, Tiger Woods – golf’s first billionaire – was nothing more than a comedian’s punch line. On top of all that, he’d hurt his back so badly that merely walking was a chore. During a depressing press conference at his tournament in the Bahamas a few years ago, he admitted he wasn’t sure he’d ever play golf again.
Then he had surgery. Went to rehab. Did the painful and humbling work of rediscovering the concepts of integrity and trust. Spent lots of time with his kids. Slowly but surely, he starting hitting golf balls again. We all watched him come back to tournament golf, but his progress was tedious. One step forward, two steps back. Just when it looked like he might be getting some of his swagger back, he’d take a mighty swipe at the ball, wince in pain, and limp his ass back to the hospital. It was wretched to watch. It’s never pleasant watching a hero fail, but Tiger’s fall from grace was the stuff of legends and we all wanted him to come back. Golf was just not the same without him.
Over the past 18 months he’s been playing well. Little by little. Last summer he almost won a couple of big ones. Then he won a big one at the end of last year. And now, good God almighty, he has just won The Masters, golf’s greatest event. Tiger is back and my lord has he done it in style! If you were watching today, you know you’ll never forget what you just saw.
If you weren’t watching today, or if you hate golf and Tiger Woods, or if you read about him and just thought, “fuck that dude” – I understand that you might find all this talk of Herculean comebacks a little nauseating. You’re right – he might not deserve your forgiveness. But still, I urge you to see the human story in all of this. There’s something in this for you too.
I’m a grown man of 49 years old and I cried today when he won. Now before you write me off as a hopeless drama queen (which I am), hear me out. Why did I shed a tear today? Not because he’s the greatest golfer in history. Not because he has come back from unthinkable depths. Not because he has overcome physical injury and psychological devastation. I cried today because we all need people, real flesh and blood humans, who can show us that we too can come back from rock bottom. We need that, you and me. Sure, I’m never gonna win The Masters, but I am gonna climb out of my own personal rock bottom, and so are you. If we watch closely enough, Tiger Woods is showing us how.
So now that he is back, now that he has won golf’s greatest prize, now that the chains of his self-made prison have been removed forever, Tiger Woods will go on to shatter Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships. In fact, I predict he’ll win 5 more over the course of the next ten years. Nothing to stop him now. It won’t be easy, because he’s inspired an entire generation of young golfers to be as ruthless in pursuit of victory as he is. But he’ll do it and I, for one, will cry every time.