Tiger Woods should continue playing golf

Ben Hocking

Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf this past weekend at the Masters was the best way to resurrect his destroyed public image while at the same time directing the media’s focus away from his family and infidelities.

Woods’ fall from grace has been an over-arching story in both sports and popular culture ever since adulterous rumors surrounding a car accident on Nov. 27, 2009 snowballed into his admitting infidelities with as many as 15 different women. Over the past several months, Woods has opened himself to scrutiny by taking a leave of absence from golf to tend to family issues. This seemed to be a noble move at first but has consequently allowed the media to dwell on his personal shortcomings rather than his place as one of the greatest golfers of all time. In my opinion, this move has only served to draw focus to both issues for Woods and the members of his family.

When Woods announced he was taking an indefinite leave from competitive golf, it was obvious that he was doing so to fix a troubled marriage and to attempt to salvage a life with his family outside of golf, but the plan has largely worked against him. Woods failed to take into account that most of the media’s coverage of golf was centered on his day-to-day exploits. With the gaping hole created by his absence from the golf course, which players such as Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh lack the star power to fill, the media has been somewhat forced to shift their focus from his undeniable talent to the mysteries surrounding the laundry list of women claiming to have had inappropriate relations with the former golden boy of golf. Woods wanted to take the press conference approach to settling the public relations nightmare, but admitting that he felt sorry (while omitting any specifics to what he was sorry for) only served to feed the speculation about what he could have been doing while out of the public eye.

The best comparison to the current Woods fiasco is when NBA star Kobe Bryant was facing charges of sexual assault from a 19-year-old Colorado woman in 2003. As a result of these allegations, which were later dropped, Bryant’s popularity plummeted. Although he lost millions from endorsement deals from companies such as McDonalds, Bryant was able to divert attention from the scandal by continuing to play basketball. Although there was still considerable coverage given to the controversy, Bryant was able to force the media’s hand into acknowledging his elite play on the court rather than what was going on in the courtroom. It seems that Woods is finally starting to follow suit. I know people will say what they want about Kobe, but he knows how to handle the media.

It seems that Woods is finally seeing a return to the golf course as a way of slowing the downward spiral. Woods has realized that the sooner he wins on the golf course, the sooner he will go back to the man who shattered the social perception of golf from a game dominated by old white men, to a game that could include players of all ages and races.  Personally I don’t believe there has been a more influential sports star that has been able to transcend the sport as Woods’ has been able to do since he first broke on the national scene in his early 20s. I know Tiger is damaged, but due to his talent, he is far from broken if he can re-establish his dominance on the course.

In short, Tiger, let your driver do the talking, and maybe people will stop listening only to the tabloids.