Anyone who over the last 25 years wrote in any depth about Tiger Woods cited his tenacity, his refusal to lose. No matter the format, course, tournament, conditions or opponent, no one got tougher when the tough got going.
Sure enough, after 124 weeks floundering around, changing his swing, living down his multiple infidelities, Woods is again atop the world professional golf rankings.
In short, he’s the best — and his personal crisis seems a footnote.
The crises he’s endured — broken marriage with Elin Nordegren, the butt of jokes, a lost driving and putting touch and, above all, not winning tournaments — seem behind him. The extreme depth, public nature and high humiliation of his crisis explains its duration.
Everything started to unravel after Thanksgiving 2009. Think about it. He’s been in the crapper for 3 1/2 years. Without him golf’s TV ratings plummeted; Nike saw a host of similar athletic heroes, like Lance Armstrong, unravel and self destruct as Tiger had; and even the casual golf fan wondered if Woods’ success was all in the past.
Now, as five or 10 years ago, he heads into April as the favorite at the Masters, one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. Who’s going to bet against him? He seems to have regained, for lack of a better concept, his equilibrium.
Did stability in his private life lead to a more proficient golf game, or the reverse? Who knows, but they’re now reality. He is dating Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. And, he has goals. Or, a goal, to assume the mantle so many people pressed upon his rippled shoulders 20 years ago — to be the best in golf history.
Woods knows how to count. He knows he’s 37. He knows he’s four wins short of tying Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record. He knows he’s five wins short of tying Sam Snead’s record for PGA Tour victories.
Woods was an easy target in 2010, and deservedly so. He was a lie exposed. His fairy tale existence from the outside turned out to be a nightmare on the inside. He bungled his crisis management opportunities, seeking the equivalent of a private jet with limo service to and from, rather than getting down on his knees and admitting to his humanity and apologizing sincerely. Then he began to get it. He found a little humility. Losing probably helped him. Being non-competitive probably fired his resolve to be the best again.
And let’s give the man some credit — not that it overrules his failures — for sticking it out. He could have taken his millions and lived in Bora Bora the rest of his life, driving golf balls into an azure sea. He chose to face the monster, and tame it. That Tiger Tenacity.
He has always had much to prove. The black son of a mixed marriage. Proclaimed the next coming when he was all of seven or eight. Too black for some whites; too white for some blacks. He was Michael Jordan in a country club sport. Woods had to be perfect. Now we know he never was; and shame on us for projecting those expectations upon him.
But don’t cry for Tiger. He’s wealthy beyond counting; expert at his profession like no other; and, he’s slowly rebuilt his fan base, his reputation, and his life.
Took him a long time, but he’s vanquished his crisis like he has so many other pro golfers.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.