Joel Blank: It was hard not to root for Tiger Woods in the British Open
I'm not afraid to admit it, I was pulling for Tiger Woods yesterday. I'm not saying I agree with all of his decisions in life, or off the course. I'm saying I wanted the iconic golfer to return to prominence at least one more time so the world could be reminded of just how dominant he was not too long ago.
A golfer that, if not for his off course transgressions, might already have more major championships than Jack Nickalaus and be considered the greatest golfer ever. He made the entire world take notice and had entirely new demographics suddenly interested in a game of golf. He not only was at the top of his game, he was a global icon that could sell sand in the desert with just his image and smile. When he was wearing red and in contention on a Sunday, the whole world was watching. Yesterday was as close as we have come to seeing a glimpse of those days again, if only for one day, and man was it fun!
I really think Tiger still has some fuel left in the tank. He is only 42 years old and we all know he has always prided himself on being in tip top condition. The most important thing is, he is finally healthy. After enduring back issues that caused him to undergo several surgeries and procedures, it looked like his days as a regular tour professional, let alone one of the best golfers in the world, were in the rear view mirror. The fact of the matter was, he seemed to be facing the reality that he may never pick up his kids again, let alone swing a golf club.
The decline was fast both on and off the course and the path of destruction and disappointment was on center stage and the evening news for all to see. It was a sad and bitter end to what was otherwise a meteoric rise to fame and fortune as the child protege that started playing at 2 years old and rocketed to being the only man within ear shot of catching all of Jack's records. The fact that he has righted the ship both on and off the course and has his health back, leaves me and many others hopeful that he can re-write the final chapter of his professional career and maybe improve his image along the way.
Maybe the reason I wanted him to win so badly is all the amazing memories he provided sports fans with his relentless persuit of perfection in an imperfect sport, and all the incredible, dominant performances he etched in our memory banks. It's like a fan of the Celtics dynasty or Yankees, being able to see them on top or in the hunt one last time.
In team sports it’s impossible to see a comeback or instant replay of those days of incredible success and achievement. In sports like tennis and golf it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's amazing! Connors and McEnroe had runs late in their career that made the whole world root for them as if they were underdogs playing in their first major tournament. Even Nicklaus made a run at age 45 when he cemented his legacy with his 18th and final major by winning the Masters.
Tiger had a chance yesterday and made a run that not many thought he had in him. He made up 4 shots, leap frogged more than a half dozen players and had his name on top of the leaderboard on the back nine of the final round of the British Open with 8 holes to play.
Even the hole that turned out to be the game changing end of his improbable run gave us all a return to the gutsy shot taking that made him Tiger Woods. On the 11th hole, after a fortuitous bounce off two spectators kept his ball in play and hope alive, he had two options— play it safe and play for par, or play aggressive and save par or better with a perfect pitch. He hit the shot that he knew he could hit and had hit numerous times before. In the end the shot was inches from being perfect, but fell short, as did he. Tiger would double bogey the hole and lose the lead and the tournament. He may have come up short this time, but I for one am hoping their is a new fire a blaze in his belly and we all get to hear Tiger roar again, at least one more time.