By HAYES RULE (@Rule0021)
Photo credit goes to atlantablackstar.com.
I wanted to be the next Tiger Woods.
What 11-year-old golfer in 2008 didn't? He was undoubtedly the greatest player at the time, a winner of 13 majors at the start of the year including the vaunted "Tiger Slam," when he won four straight in 2000-2001.
Woods wasn't your standard professional golfer -- for numerous, obvious reasons. He made the sport "cool."
And then he lost his.
We all know the script: He cheated on his wife and has reported slept with 121 different women. More jaw-dropping than his birdie on No. 16 in the final round of the 2005 Masters, am I right?
For the first time, the world saw Tiger Woods as imperfect; he was human after all. As for my 12-year-old self when I heard the news after Thanksgiving 2009?
"I don't want to be the next Tiger Woods anymore."
On April 21, ESPN's Wright Thompson further took readers into the private life of Woods with his feature titled, "The Secret History of Tiger Woods."
This thing is longer than a Stephen A. Smith rant. But I read all of it.
It brought me back to the times of 2009-10, reminiscing on whom Tiger Woods was as a man -- not as a golfer. I took to Twitter and posted some of the particularly interesting quotes and phrases.
Thompson alludes to Tiger's time in the Bahamas early in the piece and highlights the seclusion in which he must live. Imagine the spotlight he lived under throughout his entire career and especially after his cheating scandal was uncovered.
It's almost a pitying picture. (Am I really pitying someone who, Thompson describes, is looking out at his yacht and small boat?) This once-great, almost untouchable Tiger Woods has been delegated to a life of a hermit, in a sense? He, battling injuries, has simply faded away.
"Earl joined the Green Berets because he saw them as the only place a black man could be treated fairly." — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 22, 2016
Crazy to think about, right? Earl, Tiger's father, joins the Green Berets because he felt he would, as a black man, be treated fairly in the group. Years later, we're looking at a black man -- his son -- dominate a historically white sport better than anyone ever before him.
The racial issues Tiger's father had to consider were erased by his son's impact on the sport; his impact alone essentially incited an entire race to try their hand at watching and playing golf. Unfortunately, we haven't see a major African American impact as far as players on the PGA Tour yet, but there's certainly an interest in the amateur ranks.
"Tiger hated that his dad cheated on his mom and cried to his high school girlfriend about it." — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 22, 2016
No words. No words.
Picture this: Arguably the greatest athlete in the world bouncing around the club walking up to women like, "So... you wanna go see my 9-iron?" I guess Jeter and Jordan aren't bad to learn from, but it certainly highlights how Tiger was just a different animal. To become as great as he was, you have to be wired differently. You have to be special.
And boy was he special.
Thompson on Woods' affairs: "This wasn't a series of one-night stands but something more complex and strange." — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 23, 2016
Thompson told stories about how some of these affairs weren't simply, "Let's have sex and then never talk again." It's almost as if Woods was looking for companionship outside of his wife, Elin Nordegren -- someone with whom he could talk and escape life. Again, this example returns the focus to how Tiger was not your standard individual.
"Tiger was a natural introvert, and the financial interest for him to be extroverted really drove a wedge in his personality..." — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 23, 2016
This marketable, highly influential character who completely changed an entire sport was anything but extroverted as a person. In one of Thompson's stories, someone who knew Tiger from when he played at the Navy golf course said he wasn't sure if Woods had any friends his own age before high school.
"Tiger wanted to quit golf and join the Navy." — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 23, 2016
I had always known of Woods' love for the SEALs and how much of his workout regiment was based off SEALs' training, but I didn't realize it stretched this far. I didn't realize his military addiction nearly overwhelmed his love for golf.
"(Players) never were his greatest opponent, which was&always will b combination of himself & all those expectations he never could control" — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 23, 2016
Physically, no one could stop him at his peak. Mentally, from the outside, he looked so strong. Players feared him on the weekend. No one could take down the great Tiger Woods on a Sunday afternoon -- until Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship. Since, it's almost like one of Tiger's greatest advantages -- the fear factor -- disintegrated like his image.
'08 US Open: "I'm winning this tournament," he told his team. "Is it really worth it, Tiger?" Steve Williams asked. "F-- you," Tiger said — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 23, 2016
This is the Tiger Woods I want to remember. This is the Tiger Woods I wanted to be. This is the Tiger Woods who drew a major audience.
It just isn't the Tiger Woods we see today.
Michael Jordan on Tiger: "If he could win a major and walk away, he would, I think." — Hayes Rule (@Rule0021) April 23, 2016
Michael Jordan never fails. How can you ask for a better, more impactful quote? Unforunately, it's impactful because it's true.
Tiger Woods will never be great again. He's done -- cooked. As much as it pains me to say that as someone who idolized him, I would be lying if I tried to argue he will return and win another major.
We've learned that Tiger Woods is human. Before 2008 -- physically -- it seemed as if Tiger was an unstoppable force. Emotionally, through the affair stories and the accounts of grief, uncertainty and awkwardness, Tiger Woods is just like all of us. Maybe worse.