When ‘Tiger’ Woods took Augusta by storm, several moons ago, he was only doing what was Â expected of him: breaking records, and sending established dominoes of uncertainty down the game’s hallowed alley.
That’s not all. In just seven months, since he turned pro, Woods had mesmerised the world of golf, and made millions. It would only be superfluous to say that he was the quickest ever millionaire in golf history, much earlier. He took a mere nine tournaments to reaching that milestone a la Warren Buffett, at a vastly different level.
No sportsman, anywhere or wherever you turned, had achieved so much, so soon. And, at age 21, Woods was already a legend. He had captured the imagination of millions, who may not even have a smattering knowledge of the game. He’d, in the process, positioned himself as one of the most sought-after pitchmen in the United States, at a time, when his first year as a pro was far from over.
Yes, there’s something of a down-to-earth feeling with him.Â Woods was still the underdog.Â He’s of Asian-American descent. But, he’s focused. Poised. Watchful. Even thoughtful. He’d an aura about him, which was all his own. A role model, for just about anyone looking out for a hero.
Yes, he’s as cool as a cucumber. A prodigy, ever since he took his first, little steps in the game. That he became a multi-millionaire within a nanosecond was more or less passÃ©. What was not was one, big question: Would ‘Tiger’ give the game a whole new gallery? Most experts felt, yes. And, that list included the legendary Jack Nicklaus. To be a star in a script that sounds too good to be true, Woods was cognisant of all the hopes many in the game had for him.
In his words, “I don’t consider myself a Great Black Hope. I am just a golfer who happens to be black and Asian. It doesn’t matter whether they’re white, black, brown or green.Â All that matters is I touch kids that way I can through clinics, and they benefit from them.”
In an era where most kids want to grow up to be their own Michael Jordan, Woods brought new hope, a change. Maybe, Woods’ father, Earl, had a premonition of the shape of things to come. This was precisely the reason why he guided his son’s career, even before he was born.
Earl spoke to ‘Tiger’ about how to deal with the media when he was not even five. Woods, at that early age, had a stamp of greatness already etched in him, and in his arching swing. And, at 15, he won the US junior title for the first time. He defended the title for the next two years. At 18, he became the youngest player to ever win the US Amateur. What’s more, he won the trophy, again and again.
Earl was a proud father, all right; a firm believer in divine intervention, the omnipresent power of god. Earl had once said, when ‘Tiger’ was only a talented cub and had not made a major ‘coup’, or shown the trappings of being a star power, in his own right: “There is no comprehension by anyone on the impact this kid is going to have, not only on the game, but on the world itself… The Lord sent him here on a mission, and it will transcend the game.” Prophetic words.
Earl, for one, was far from being an over-indulgent parent. Early on, he was. But, he knows history – and, he knows how Stephano Capriati turned his daughter, Jennifer, into a lucrative meal ticket, when she was just 14. A parental guffaw that soon had Jennifer resorting to the usage of drugs, instant nirvana, and ultimately, loss of face.Â Earl, of course, always had that advantage. ‘Tiger’ Â was different. His past certainly says that. So also his contracts and status.Â Also, goof-ups. Yet, no one ever dominated golf, like Woods, at age 21.
‘Tiger’ has been compared to a host of sport legends: from Arthur Ashe to Jackie Robinson. His riposte: “These guys are one of a kind.Â I just want to do my part, trying to help out as much as I can.Â As long as I can touch one person, I feel I’ve done my job. But, I’m definitely going to try to do a whole lot more than that.” Woods’ passion for golf is, obviously, enormous: a religion, so to say. He says: “It’s like a drug.Â If I don’t have it, I go crazy. It’s beyond love and hate. I always tell people I’m addicted.”
‘Tiger’ is, of course, too human. Hence, prone to foible in matters of the heart, or women, too. A paradigm of sorts: his adrenalin went up, when he could not get things going. Result? He fired his daddy, as his caddie. He reflects: “It came down to the point where he was reading the greens so good. They were perfect reads. I just couldn’t hit my putts. You take it out on the caddie sometimes. I got angry, and I just fired my dad.” That’s no aberration, and Woods was honest about it. The whole event also showed his immense commitment to golf, his volition to succeed.
If it hadn’t been golf, it would have been something else.Â Something, that would have brought Woods into the limelight, as resplendently. And, Nicklaus should know – for he’s a man who’s not known for going out on a limb, ever. It’s a possibility. Because, Woods has it all in him. He’s a genius – albeit a tad flawed.
– Photo, Courtesy: 7 Themes