By Vanessa Obioha
A decade ago, renowned golfer Tiger Woods hugged major news headlines. It is not the first time he is making the headlines only that this time, the details were juicier. The US celebrity gossip tabloid, National Enquirer (which is now on sale) released a gripping article on how the world famous golfer has been cheating on his wife then Elin Nordegren. It was a truth most fans of the golfer were not ready to accept but as more tabloids picked up the trail, sniffed around and discovered that Woods was indeed a serial cheater, admiration turned to rage, and Woods enviable golf reputation plummeted. Major commercial brands such as AT&T severed their ties with him except for Nike. The once idolised golf player became the least wanted. By 2010, Woods and his wife had gone their separate ways with the former apologising and declaring his determination to bounce back on the green field.
But it was not as easy as he sounded. With four back surgeries and a couple of DUI arrests, it seemed that Woods career will never see another light of the day. Every attempt to get back into shape was hampered by losses and quite a few doubted if he would ever wear the green jacket again.
Until on Sunday, on that green field of Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA, Woods once again proved that he still got the magic. Winning his fifth Master at age 43 fetched Woods the title of the second-oldest golfer to win the title. He first won the title in 1997 and was crowned the youngest golfer to win the title. It was also his first major win since 2008.
Again, Woods is and still hugging the headlines for his triumph and sweet redemption. Like a phoenix, he is celebrated for rising from the ashes such that the United States President, Donald Trump tweeted that he would be awarded a prestigious Medal of Freedom.
The sports and gaming industry is in a frenzy, making bets, analysis and forecasts on the future of Woods after Sunday’s victory. So also is Nike, the only brand that stuck its neck out for the golfer. The company released an inspirational video on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter accounts, detailing the highs and lows of Woods.
Notwithstanding the overwhelming show of support for the golfer, it is difficult for some to celebrate the sportsman without referring to his ugly past or golf’s racial discrimination stance. The sport has often been pilloried for its white supremacy. Once, golf champion Fuzzy Zoeller made a racial statement about Woods during the 1997 Masters. When asked about Woods performance, Zoeller reportedly answered “He’s doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it. Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”
He later apologised for his insensitive remark.
Pundits are also quick to recall that Woods’ 1997 victory came six years after the club admitted its first black member.
Although Woods refused to be labelled a member of the black race (he identifies as a Cablinasian, to reflect his blend of white, black, Native American and Asian ancestry), he was often treated with same indignation meted on a black man for his misdemeanours. Yet,his close relationship with Trump not only resonate his indifference to racial talks but also put the president in a good spotlight as against his racist persona.
Perhaps, the moral redemption which Woods’ victory has been attributed to is a harder pill for victims of sexual harassment to swallow. Does winning the Masters absolve Woods of his infidelity scandal ten years ago?
Arguably, Woods didn’t grope every waitress he came across like Harvey Weinstein, however, the similar trend of hurt on their victims cannot be blurred. Supposed Woods was caught up in the #MeToo era, will the ovation be so loud? Will R.Kelly for instance be celebrated someday if he makes a comeback with an irresistible hit?
If anything, what Woods victory has shown is that at the end of the day, the world doesn’t really care about your past but about your achievements.
For instance, three years after Chris Brown’s domestic violence with singer Rihanna, he won his first and only Grammy for his album F.A.M.E. The singer till date has millions of fans all over the world.
The long held debate has been the ability of fans to separate the the individual from his craft, because it is the talent that the audience appreciate first before the personality.
Whether Woods victory is a moral redemption or not, the fact remains that he’s been able to get himself back in the game. Nothing else matters.