Tiger Woods Is On His Third Strike

Here’s the thing: Tiger (and Nike) was right. Winning does take care of everything.

(Or as my grandmother used to say: “Winning may not be everything, but it beats the hell out of whatever comes in second place.”)

Going into The Masters this week, if Tiger continues to be on his “A” game, as he seems to be on lately, there is a strong possibility that, come Sunday evening, Bubba Watson will be sliding another green jacket over that red shirt that Tiger wears over his partially black shoulders.

And then all will really be right with the world, because Mr. Woods will have returned to his rightful place in sports: sitting atop the golf world, separating himself from the field, being the major talk of all conversation.

But there is one thing winning won’t be able to do for Tiger, even if he’s back – or close to being back – to his old self on the golf course (which is why the choice of the word “everything” is so…so…reckless). See, the whole problem with Tiger’s personal life blowing up in front of his and all of our faces, is that he left himself no room for error in his life off the links.

Allow me to put it another way: This new relationship with Lindsey Vonn, this new beautiful place of bliss he’s seemed to have found in her, this stroke of sheer good luck of a woman – Tiger can’t ever, ever, ever, ever, ever screw this up, or he’s done. Forever.

See, in America, we have this thing about giving people second chances. Sometimes, we even give certain people third and fourth opportunities to right their past wrongs. We take pride in that. We like the fact that in this country there is an unwritten code of redemption implied. We forgive the sinner, not the sin.

And even though the only “sin” Tiger Woods seemed to have committed was one (or 19, but who’s really counting) against his wife, the fact that the details of his extracurricular-ness went so public, allowed the public to have stake and say in the how and when he was ultimately going to be forgiven.

And just as it seems that we’ve all moved past his past digressions, we have not reached the point where, if he in any way screws up this relationship with Vonn, all will be forgiven by the public regardless of how much winning he gets into.

Tiger has to know this. He has to know that “winning” in his situation goes far beyond golf. He has to know, as one of the few in life that transcend the sport they play, that his “comeback” transcends what he does in his quest to out-major Jack Nicklaus.

Room-for-error doesn’t exist for Tiger. Neither does room-for-mistakes or room-for-mishaps. Not in this case. He has to be faithful to himself as much as he does Vonn. He has to act as if his behavior in this new relationship will be the determining factor of whether or not he gets into heaven once it’s all said and done. No roomforerror with Lindsey, no roomforerror with us.

Hopefully Tiger’s historic fall from grace serves a purpose now. He seems to have learned, but the question is has he changed?

Only time – not winning – will tell.



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