If there's one man in the world today who would command the greatest odds of beating this seemingly hopeless situation and, returning, not only to form, but to competitive golf, and winning, then that man would be Tiger Woods.
So, in a nutshell, yes, while it's another nasty blow to 45-year-old Woods, but by no means is it a knockout.
I know. I’m ashamed to admit it too: the first thought that struck me, and I reckon, most of Tiger Woods’ fans—after news came out about his horrific crash on an infamously dangerous stretch of road in Los Angeles—was “…Gosh, I hope he wasn’t intoxicated.” He wasn’t, and as more information emerged over the last week, it became evident Woods has had a providential escape from what could easily have been a fatal accident.
And, given the severity of the crash—Woods’ SUV turned turtle and then flipped a few times before coming to rest—the news was as good as one could hope for: the extent of his leg injuries while by no means minimal, are not likely to be life-threatening; the fact that he was conscious at the time and responded to the team that had to literally cut through the metal wreckage to rescue him augurs well for his recovery; and, in that order of significance, the successful medical procedure to ease the pressure on the lower part of his leg, thereby preventing further complications, that could have potentially affected future mobility has been successful. So, in a nutshell, yes, while it’s another nasty blow to 45-year-old Woods, but by no means is it a knockout. And going by the same unworldly benchmark the man himself has set, no one is going to be betting on Woods not coming back to pro golf, playing, competing, and well, winning is certainly not out of question. Life has dealt so many tough hands to this man, that it seems almost like he needs adversity of a superlative nature to fuel his fire to surmount the odds. I wish providence had a lower opinion of his abilities though…give the man a break.
I wonder what thoughts passed through Woods’ mind as he lay there in the mangled wreckage of the car. Did his life flash before his eyes? Did he have any regrets? Or did he smile to himself, and close his eyes, knowing that he’d done his best, given the game of life his all, and then some more? Existential questions about seeking meaning in life are difficult and abstruse: It’s hard to come by the answers from books, but, lying helpless in the wreckage of a car crash that you don’t know that you’re going to survive, the answers must be all too clear. One can only conjecture, but I would imagine Woods thought less about his golf career and more about his children; he must have been so proud of playing alongside Charlie in an event recently. That boy might be a great golfer one day, or not, if he decided to do something else. Crucially, while Woods never had a choice to be anything but the son of his father, and of living a life that had been chosen for him, he did have a choice when it came to what kind of father he would be to his children. Woods’ has been a very different father to Charlie and Sam Woods—a far cry from what Earl Woods was to him. He’s spoken about not ordaining a life for his children and how Charlie and Sam, are free to be themselves, to do whatever they want to with their lives, and what not to. To choose greatness if they want to, or a life of anonymity if that they so want. Woods has not thrust any mantle of changing the world on his children: Sam and Charlie Woods will be who they are, not chips off the old block. And that, I’d proffer, in Tiger’s mind, must be the greatest legacy he could have left his children.
In a strange twist of fate, even this crash presents Woods with an opportunity to measure up in history against one of his heroes, and one of the greatest golfers of all time—Ben Hogan. Hogan’s horrific head-on collision with a bus in 1949, left the golfer with life-threatening injuries from which he looked unlikely to recover from, and the possibility of playing competitive golf and winning again seemed bleak. Hogan’s unprecedented ascent out of that predicament is the stuff of legend: not only did he return to pro golf but notched up his biggest victories and biggest triumphs in the years that followed. In an incisive piece on the parallels between Hogan and Woods’ predicament, John Barton, formerly with Golf Digest Magazine writes, ‘Ben Hogan had a car crash and then the man became a legend. Tiger Woods was a legend and then the man became a car crash…’ Tiger’s travails over the last few years, on- and off-the-course, certainly measure up to that description: the women, medication abuse, driving-under-the-influence, the very public breakdown of his marriage, and all the surgeries—over 10 in all that have left his back fused and his left knee cobbled back together with metal rods. His right leg, the good leg, now faces a similar reconstruction.
And yet, if there’s one man in the world today who would command the greatest odds of beating this seemingly hopeless situation and, returning, not only to form, but to competitive golf, and winning, then that man would be Tiger Woods. Not his age, a ripe 45 years, not his litany of physical injuries, and certainly not his desire—he’s never had a lack of that—make any dents in that possibility. Tiger Woods is a legend because he has made miracles commonplace and routinely overcame seemingly impossible realities by dint of nothing but sheer willpower, self-belief and hard work. It’s possible that this is not the life Woods secretly desired as a child, it’s possible that he didn’t want to make all these sacrifices to be great…but that’s water under the bridge now. Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world, of our age, and perhaps of all time. He’ll be back.