Finding God's Winning Spirit

Where Has Tiger Woods Gone?

June 2, 2014 | Greg Smith | Sports


Tiger Woods spent 264 weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010 as the number one golfer in the world.  He dominated the sport of golf and appeared to be on the way to demolishing all records of wins – majors or otherwise.  Not only was Tiger Woods an icon in the golf world, with the help of Nike, he became the most recognized athlete in America and the world. He was AP athlete of the year four times and AP athlete of the decade. The $60,000 question is, "What has happened to Tiger Woods"?

In 2009 Tiger Woods would once again grab the spotlight but this time it was because of his lack of performance rather than his accomplishments. For months after Tiger admitted to his infidelity the "talking heads" on television tried to sell us that Tiger’s fall from dominance was due to physical injuries, the rising skill level of those around him or his age. Analysts began putting Tiger’s swing under a microscope trying to identify some flaw that explained his failure to consistently win (like they knew more about the golf swing than Tiger Woods).

These excuses of his demise don't fly for me. For anyone to say the Tiger could not play golf because he had a bad knee or he had a strained back is ridiculous. He won the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines two weeks after having his knee scoped. He limped around for four days to beat Rocco Mediate in a playoff –two days after he won, he had knee surgery.

I believe that none of these things were the cause of Tiger’s inability to play golf at the level he once played. To me, the answer was that Tiger had lost his way – the old Tiger no longer existed.  It is my opinion that Earl Wood‘s gift to Tiger was also a curse. As a Lt. Col. in the Army and an Instructor of military science and tactics, is not hard to believe that Mr. Woods knew how to create a confident competitor. 

There's a fine line between confidence and conceit, between the drive to win and the inability to tolerate defeat. The Tiger Woods of old was a winning machine, consistently crushing his competition. Tiger Woods had become a golfing juggernaut, a sporting icon, a social media phenomenon – a god. Losing for Tiger (at least consistently) was never an option.  Earl Woods had created him and convinced him that he was invincible – unfortunately he was and is not.

Once Tiger began to believe that he was unlike the rest of us, that he was extraordinary and destined to live a charmed life, he was doomed. It was not that Earl lied to Tiger or misled him about his athletic gifts and potential. The flaw in all this was that Tiger, like many professional athletes, began to believe that golf, and his ability to play it, was the key to fulfillment or the definition of who he was. Tiger is not the first athlete to realize that quite often when the spotlight fades there is nothing there to replace it.  The problem about being a self-proclaimed deity is there is no room for failure.  The fall from icon to normal human is far and hard. The fall from icon to adulterer is even farther and harder.

It is my opinion that Tiger will have to regroup emotionally and grow spiritually if he ever expects to return to his position of dominance. He can increase his physical training, spend more time at the range and continue to pursue the perfect instructor but it will all be in vain if Tiger does not go internal, he will have to find his center, his sense of self – his faith.

In my opinion (everyone has one) the most important thing for Tiger to do is negotiate humility: to learn to love himself no matter how he plays and no matter who pays.  He will have to learn that playing golf with the ability God has given him is a privilege and pure joy. He will have to learn what other Christian athletes know and that is to be big you must become small, to ultimately succeed you must negotiate failure, and most of all, that winning means living victoriously!


-       Excerpt from Sport Theology: Finding God’s Winning Spirit.  -



It is clear to me that the precipitating event that changed Tiger Wood’s performance from impeccable to better than most was his affair and forced confession about his history of sexual misconduct. All of a sudden Tiger Woods was no longer adored; he no longer was a hero or a person to be emulated.  Tiger had lost on a bigger stage – he had been defeated at his core and had no coping skills for such a defeat. The overwhelming public response of criticism and personal rejection was foreign to him. He was unaware of his “feet of clay" – something his father had failed to teach him. No one had prepared him to deal with the reality of his humanness. Nowhere along the way did he hear that he is like the rest of us, imperfect – a sinner.

No one really knows the relationship between Mr. Woods and Tiger – I certainly did not know the man. Knowing a little about the professional background of Earl Woods I would think it safe to say that when it came to competitiveness and training he was "old school."  I would imagine that Tiger was encouraged to separate his emotions from his performance, deal with the empirical and focus on the things he could control.  This obviously worked well in competitive golf but not with shame, guilt and failure. Sure Tiger will win some tournaments, he is too good not to, but to return to his previous athletic level of performance things will have to change; he will have to change. The old Tiger Woods no longer exists.

Most leaders, myself included, need the intermittent reality check to avoid getting off track. Thanx for this reminder, Greg!
Posted by Bijou on
Most leaders, myself included, need the intermittent reality check to avoid getting off track. Thanx for this reminder, Greg!
Posted by Bijou on
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