How Tiger Got His Groove Back
The Masters looms and suddenly Tiger Woods is back.
I know, I know, Tiger Woods has been back for three straight years. And for three straight years he's rolled into the Masters looking like the old Tiger and lost.
But this time's different.
Tiger's got his groove back.
Thank Lindsey Vonn, Tiger's new blonde girlfriend.
Nearly four years after Tiger's life came unraveled after a ridiculous car accident and Elin's golf club attack, sorry, rescue, in his gated Orlando community, Woods has finally got a new blonde in his life and his golf game is surging. I've argued for a while that Tiger's harem of women was his stress relief valve, what kept him from obsessing too much about golf. Major win after major win piled up and Tiger tried to have his cake and eat it too. He wanted a family lifestyle and a harem, the Tony Soprano of the links.
The rules didn't apply to Tiger, he could get away with anything, sex with a porn star and a happy home life, Dirk Diggler meets Cliff Huxtable. (Although, Bill Cosby tried to pull off a double life too).
Only...yeah, that didn't work out so well once Elin found out that her fantasy lifestyle was an illusion. Turns out you can't go from being a nanny to being married to the most famous athlete in the world and live happily ever after in a monogamous relationship.
Even if you're a Swedish bikini model.
Elin may have outkicked her coverage more than just about any woman in the history of the country, but she shanked the next few punts through no fault of her own. Instead of just pulling a Bill Clinton -- apologizing and not really changing at all -- Tiger underwent an attempted makeover over the course of several years. He enrolled in rehab, he tried to change his lifestyle, he delivered that awful pre-written apology that made everyone very uncomfortable, he lost control of himself.
In retrospect, how many more majors would Tiger have right now if after Elin divorced him he'd called a press conference and just said, "So, turns out I really love p----."
And then just turned and walked out of the press conference.
Would this have been the greatest press conference of all time?
I think so.
Sure, Tiger would have lost some endorsements, but, so what, why does he need more money? Why does he need companies to support him? If he would have gone back to winning, everyone would have forgiven him anyway. Hell, Bill Clinton's the most popular politician in America. Kobe got charged with rape and his endorsements came back. Ray Lewis killed a man and he works for Disney. Tiger didn't even commit a crime, eventually his endorsements would have come back too.
Plus, he'd be in the Charles Barkley zone, where he can do anything and get away with it. There'd be no rules, he'd be completely free, his golf game would have been unstoppable.
Instead, Tiger Woods lost himself and he lost his groove. Suddenly, he had no idea who he was, he tried to keep from cursing because he wanted to set a good example for us. Really, he said that. As a result golf shots that used to come to him so easily vanished, his game plummeted in a tide of overanalysis, Tiger Woods tried to become a better person and lost what made him unique.
You can't turn a Tiger into a pussy cat.
This happens sometimes to athletes and entertainers. As soon as you gain perspective and become a "better" person, you lose the mental edge that made you the terror that you used to be. I'm sure Alexander the Great wasn't a very nice guy, I'm glad Nick Saban isn't my dad, Michelangelo probably wasn't a great husband, but those with great and extraordinary talents aren't typically like you and me, that's what makes them great. Instead of continuing to be unique, Tiger Woods tried to become like us.
Even worse that than, he fell victim to one of life's great traps, paralysis by overanalysis, he started to overthink what made him good. Overthinking anything can turn us all into nervous wrecks. Ask a comedian what makes a joke funny and look how quickly they run in the other direction. When Hemingway tried to write like Hemingway, he couldn't do it anymore, he turned into a caricacture of himself. You either got it or you don't, it either works or it doesn't, tinkering with great talent is like F. Scott Fitzgerald trying to rewrite "The Great Gatsby" from scratch after knowing that the book was destined to be great.
It ain't happening.
Golf is already the most mental sport of all.
Anyone who has ever been on a golf course knows the feeling of a perfectly struck drive that can be immediately contrasted with the infuriating feel of a drive screeching into a lake at an obscene and erstwhile impossible 28 degree angle -- we all need to avoid overthinking on the golf course. That's why lots of us crack open a few beers on the course. How much smoother does your swing become after a couple of beers, when you stop obsessing and just start playing?
Tiger's game was beautiful and elegant and unlike anything we'd ever seen before. He attacked the course with elan and precision, the Napoleon of Bermuda grass, a conquering hero of the links.
Everyone has a friend who thinks too much while he plays golf.
Inevitably that friend's clubs end up buried deep in a lake, the victim of an overwrought mind. Tiger's life unraveled when he suddenly didn't have the distractions of his secret life. Somehow, paradoxically, Tiger's confidence came from his harem, the thought that he was outsmarting all of us, the fact that once he stepped off the golf course there were women who took him to another place. Women were Tiger's escape, the stress relief that helped to make him dominate.
Monogamy was Tiger's kryptonite, being like us brought him back down to our level. When he didn't have that escape anymore, Tiger was done.
Now Tiger's got a new blonde and his game is returning to form.
Already the most optimistic Tiger watchers are buying grand slam tickets at 64-1, could Tiger really pull off a major foursome?
Don't bet against him.
Because Tiger's got his groove back.