Everything is going to be OK.
There’s nothing left to prove; you’ll always be my (and probably my generation’s) favorite golfer. Ever since I can remember it’s been Sunday red and fist pumps. It’s cliché, I know, but I really did practice those in front of my mirror. My dad gave me my first club, but you gave me my passion.
So for that, I’ll start this letter, instead of ending it, with a thank you.
I know things recently haven’t gone your way. Double-bogey blues and a bum back have prevented you from doing the one thing you love most: competing. It has to be frustrating as hell; going from the best golfer in the world to contesting cut lines isn’t something I ever thought would happen. I feel you; I had the good fortune of playing college golf, but a full-time job has turned my game south in a hurry (it’s amazing how quick the short game goes, isn’t it?). Granted, I don’t have four green jackets hanging in my closet, but I do know what it feels like to suck. All golfers do, that’s what makes this game great: average joes feel for pros when their games blow.
But it’s all good.
You’ve done more on (and off) the course than 99.99 percent of all the people who’ve ever picked up a golf club. You didn’t just re-write history, you authored a whole new book. You broke barriers and shattered records (Pebble Beach, 15 strokes? That was just silly). You made an entire generation of golfers hit the gym just to keep up. And, most importantly, you updated the wardrobe for millions of golfers (thank you for dri-FIT).
You did disappoint me though.
No, I’m not referring to your off-the-course issues. Sadly, my generation is used to that kind of thing. We see it in the news every day. I never forgave you because it was never my place to forgive you. You don’t owe me an apology and you never will. What happened was between you and your family, and you and your family alone. But I am glad to hear things are better and that you’re a great dad. I can appreciate that even more so now with a little golfer of my own.
And no, I’m not disappointed by your infatuation with the military which may or may not have led to some injuries. I’ve heard all the professional opinions and determined the only one that really matters is yours. Those men and women deserve our respect and admiration, and if you want to train with them first hand, then you’re damn well entitled to that. Heck, Arnold Palmer flew planes everywhere, which is pretty dang risky in my book, but we don’t hear anyone criticizing the King’s aviation affection for potentially endangering his career.
My disappointment, like many golf fans, is in your setbacks, and that should tell you something. We want to see you back on Tour; we yearn for it. Your absence has left a big void, and anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.
But what would be an open letter be without a plea? So, Tiger, here’s mine: have fun again.
I miss the smile. I long to see the fist pumps, and I think you do too. Attitude is everything in this game; it’s amazing how long that 6-inch course in-between your ears can play. An unlikely source helped me find joy on the course again, so perhaps I can be the same for you.
Get ready, it’s story time:
Years ago, my mom (who’s also my biggest golf fan, something I know you appreciate) drove me to play in the Pepsi Little People’s Golf Tournament in Quincy, Ill. I played a career round on the first day, posting a 67 (first sub-70 round ever) to take the lead. We stayed up late to watch the first-round recap on the evening news (they mispronounced my last name; story of my life). Well, the final round started and ended quickly as early bogeys dashed my chances. My closing 76 landed me with a fourth-place finish and heavy heart. That’s when a 95-year old woman saddled up next to me.
“What’s wrong, honey?” she asked.
“I sucked. I had the lead after the first round and blew it today. I lost,” I said trying not to cry.
Thinking this sweet, old lady would cheer me up; she looked at the scoreboard and said:
I was 12, and golf has been a lot more fun since.
Hurry back Big Cat, but more importantly, just smile.