By RON HART
Tiger Woods, who became his own cautionary tale, made his redemptive comeback earlier this week and won the Masters after 3,950 days since his last major win. His son Charlie and daughter Sam hugged him emotionally on 18. It’s probably the best comeback story in sports and one the nation universally cheered.
It has been a tough decade for Tiger. You will remember that his Swedish wife, Elin, divorced him citing irreconcilable waitresses. She chased him out of their driveway with a 9-iron (she felt an 8-iron was too much club). Elin did miss with the 9-iron; thank goodness Charles Barkley was her swing coach. Tiger fled out of his driveway in his car and hit a tree; seven more bimbos fell out.
Then Tiger hurt his back (perhaps by picking up too many pancake waitresses). He had his back fused and his knee redone. He went to sex rehab, drug rehab and maybe drunk camp. He’s been to sex rehab in Mississippi so many times the cafeteria named a sandwich after him.
A couple of years ago he started dating gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn, so I guess he went back to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and got his sex rehab treatments reversed.
When Tiger staged his first comeback, he played terribly. Harrison Ford hit more fairways with his plane than Tiger did during that year. Adolf Hitler spent less time in a bunker in 1945 than Tiger did in 2016.
Why wouldn’t Tiger want to return to playing on the PGA Tour? It’s a great life: You make the money of a Republican, have as much sex as a Democrat and fly around in $60 million private Gulfstream jets like an FBI director.
Tiger got his DUI-ish while he was on pain meds. Back then he couldn’t drive a golf ball or a car. The charge was dismissed because he said he was just swerving to miss a tree. It turned out the tree was the air freshener hanging on his rear-view mirror but the excuse held up in Florida.
Then he cheated on Vonn and, like her, things went quickly downhill. She suspected something when Tiger started playing better golf. Then he won the FedEx Championship at East Lake and made steady and inspiring progress leading up to winning the Masters.
Will Tiger ever command the moral high ground to endorse the past sponsors who dropped him, such as Buick or AT&T? Most of his sponsors dropped him after his sexploits. AT&T dropped him (as quickly as one of their cell phone calls) from his $15 million contract — still the most expensive roaming charges ever assessed on a man. To its credit Nike stayed with him. And Lasik Eye Clinics is still with him — until ugly mistresses show up, he should be good there.
Tiger handled it all with class. He didn’t go crying to Oprah, Gayle King, Robin Roberts or Dr. Phil. We never knew the severity of his back injury; he handled maladies in isolation like a man. He admitted his mistakes and this time he seemed sincere. There are no winners when our sports heroes whimper.
In the last few years during his comeback, by all accounts Tiger was more approachable, kind and appreciative; in short, likable. In his previous 80 wins on Tour, he was perfunctory and cold. This Masters victory saw him emotional and happy. We have a new Tiger. Yes, he is like all of us, flawed and complex, but striving for redemption.
Not too long ago, what is now called womanizing was romanticized. James Bond, The Rat Pack and the like burnished their reputations by being ladies men. That has all changed. I do not totally fault Tiger; rich and famous men often get shaken down by opportunistic women in search of notoriety and/or a dollar. My guess is that much of what was made of this was false.
Yet supposedly racist white America cheered Tiger on Sunday and he has the support of the Augusta golfing community in his comeback. Augusta even installed his own water fountain for him a while back.
The crowd at Augusta cheered loudly for Tiger on Sunday. We have not heard a crowd screaming that loudly for a womanizing billionaire golfer, well, since the last Trump rally. On Sunday, Trump tweeted a picture of Tiger and him playing in a charity golf event. My guess is that it was to raise money for the Boys Will Be Boys Club.
Ron Hart is a syndicated columnist.