Before we get into the proclamation that Tiger Woods is the overwhelming favorite to win at Bay Hill for a record ninth time this week, we need to call Notah Begay to the stand to testify and confirm some things that really stood out about Woods that were readily observable last week at the Valspar Championship.
Notah, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you?
Okay, let’s get to it.
“He’s a completely different person. He’s gone through public humiliation. He’s gone through personal challenges. He’s gone through physical injury. He’s gone through technical problems in all parts of his game. He’s risen above it all and the end result is a guy who is out here really appreciative of his ability to go out and play the type of golf that he’s capable of.”
The “he” Notah spoke of is, of course, Tiger Woods, who has also been named as the U.S. team captain for the 2019 Presidents Cup opposite Ernie Els.
There was all sorts of shocking behavior by Woods at The Valspar. He smiled and gladly signed autographs for fans. He actually exchanged fist-bumps with some of his fans on the way to the first tee Sunday. Tiger smiled early and often. He didn’t slam any clubs. He only cussed a couple of times all week. He chatted with some of the galleries.
As the late great Vince Lombardi once cried: What the hell is going on out there?
Maybe, just maybe, Tiger Woods has re-emerged from the depths, the humiliation of that roadside DUI arrest, captured on police-cam and the ensuing mug-shot seen ’round the world last May.
That, indeed, was rock bottom for one of sports biggest icons.
Then came the doubt that comes with a fourth back surgery. Even Woods let doubt creep into his mind. Wasn’t sure he’d ever play again, much less play at a high level.
Maybe the humiliation, maybe the doubt, maybe the addiction to pain killers and recovery from that was exactly what this guy needed to turn him around the way the Christmas Ghosts turned Ebeneezer Scrooge into a philanthropist.
Maybe, just perhaps, we’ve seen the birth of a new Tiger Woods — one who is kinder, gentler and simply nicer to people.
He thanked his huge galleries often last week. There was something new — lots of eye-contact.
Holy 14 majors!
Is this the new Tiger Woods?
Sure looks like it. Looks for all to see as though this guy now truly appreciates being out there and has a new-found appreciation for his supporters. The worse thing than having thousands of people begging for your autograph is to have no one caring for your autograph.
Maybe he now understands that glory is a fleeting thing and that what people remember most is how you treat them.
Which brings us back to Bay Hill this week and the man who set the standard for treating people the way he wanted to be treated.
That would be Arnold Palmer.
It would be sensational if Woods goes out and wins at Bay Hill and, in the process, sets the PGA Tour record with nine wins there. He has eight there, eight at Firestone and eight at Torrey Pines. Thirty percent of his 79 wins have come on three courses. Mind boggling.
It would also be mind-boggling if Woods goes out and wins again, and, in the process, starts acting more like Arnold Palmer.
Now that would be something.
Looks like he’s better so far, a far cry from the cur he once was.
Baby steps, everyone, baby steps -but steps in the right direction.