The year was 1997 and golf was forever changed. Young Tiger Woods ran away with the Masters, the most prestigious tournament in golf, dominating the field with a 12-stroke victory. That day changed the life of Woods, but more so it changed the game of golf forever. It was just a small preview at what the future would hold.
All of a sudden golf was cool. TV ratings for golf were at an all-time high. Every tournament wanted Woods in the field because it meant huge revenues in ticket sales, merchandise sales and major publicity. Tiger Woods was an instant hero to golfers and non-golfers alike. He inspired the young to follow their dreams, never give up hope and to realize that anything is possible. Tiger Woods revitalized golf and so much more like nothing else had in a very long time.
After dominating golf for so long, things are quite different today for the young protégé that everyone once aspired to be like. You don't hear many kids mimicking the words "I'm Tiger Woods" after the famous Nike commercial. Finding a positive story in the media about Tiger Woods is almost impossible to come by. He continues to take a beating for everything from his bad play on the course to cheating on his wife with multiple women nearly six years ago. It's a sea of criticism from the press and the public.
Why? Why must everyone continue to beat up on the guy? This is a person who did so much for golf. He changed so much about golf for the better, but now he's everyone's punching bag. Instead of throwing him out in the trash and treating him like garbage, why don't we help him? Why don't we rally behind Woods and support him? Why can't the PGA Tour get him professional help? In fact, I believe golf owes it to Tiger Woods to get him the help he needs.
As I stated in a recent post, Tiger Woods' problems of late have nothing to do with his physical game. He doesn't need a new swing coach or a new putter. Tiger Woods is lost. Tiger Woods is hurting on the inside. Tiger Woods is an emotional mess. He needs real help.
Let's be clear: for the most part I believe in self-responsibility. If you want to make a change in your life, only you can make it happen. But in this case, golf truly owes Tiger Woods for all his contributions on and off the course. If there was never a Tiger Woods, the fact is golf would not be what it is today.
As for the public: shut up and leave him alone. What did Tiger Woods do to you to deserve this kind of abuse? I've worked with amateur and professional athletes on the mental aspects of performance for more than 30 years. Even when an athlete is at the top of his game and constantly winning and in the limelight, it's not easy. There's no fun in being chased by the paparazzi non-stop and being unable to live a private existence when you want to. But as tough as it is when things are good, it's a million times more difficult when the whole world has nothing better to do than talk trash about you all the time. And you can bet as The British Open and PGA Championship approach later this summer that yes, the talk will be about Jordan Spieth and the grand slam, but you won't have to look too far to find a negative story about Tiger.
Unfortunately, the late Earl Woods, Tiger's father, passed away in 2006. If Earl Woods was still alive, Tiger Woods would still be the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world today and more importantly he'd have his head on straight. Earl was a tough guy, but he was Tiger's rock. While no one will ever replace Earl Woods, Tiger needs to find someone to confide in. He needs someone to spill his guts to and clear his mind with.
I'm not so sure at this point that even a personal relationship or a friend will do. I believe Tiger Woods needs real help, and for all that he's done, I'm calling on golf to provide him that help. This is not about money. Tiger has more money than he knows what to do with. This is about doing the right thing.
Tiger Woods gave so much to golf. And now, golf owes Tiger Woods.