“I smile at challenges,” said Tiger Woods. And, no doubt, he’s smiling now after snagging the Masters title last week despite significant adversity.
This win marked Tiger’s fifth title at the famed event and is his 15th major tournament victory during his career, but what makes the win even sweeter is the personal and professional comeback that it demonstrates. It rocketed him back to his former premier spot as a top athlete.
“It’s unreal for me to experience this,’’ he said in a television interview after his triumph on Sunday. “It was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to win just because of what’s transpired the last couple of years.”
Tiger’s journey back to greatness also provides a lesson to all of us about how determination, personal toughness and grit can best just about any of life’s challenges.
Remember the news headlines about how Tiger’s life was spinning out of control? Beginning in late 2009, Tiger’s stance as America’s top golfer came undone. During the years to come, he endured a series of physical and medical issues. After multiple surgeries, he became addicted to pain killers. His philandering led to a marital dispute that ended in a car crash, and later, a divorce.
This was the story that the news spun out in shocking headlines. It was the fall of one of our most beloved sports stars, and it was a tragedy.
Many people thought that Tiger was finished, washed up. But, after 14 long years since winning his last Augusta National, this 43-year-old is back on the scene, bigger and brighter than ever. Tiger is back on par with America’s other superstar athletes –LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Tom Brady – just as he was back in 1997 when he scored his first Masters victory.
At 43, Woods became the second-oldest winner of the Masters, right behind Jack Nicklaus, who won age 46 in 1986, and who holds the record for victories in major tournaments at 18. Seeing his talent, the legendary Nicklaus once predicted that, because he was so good at the game, Tiger would collect more than the combined ten Masters titles that he and Arnold Palmer had won there.
Who knows what the future holds for this comeback kid? The decade-long drought that Tiger had between major championships is over, and this pro golfer makes it look like anything is possible for him, now.
It’s a great story – an on-top-of-the-world athlete takes a tumble, and then, after some time, stands up and dusts himself off and gets right back in the game. It’s a story of overcoming adversity, of real triumph.
It’s also a reminder to ignore what others think and say about you. Tiger’s personal and professional troubles played out across the media. Everyone in the world knows the most intimate details of his marital infidelities, physical injuries and on-course struggles. He was completely exposed and vulnerable. No one could have blamed Tiger if he had slunk off into anonymity for the rest of his life. But he didn’t run away. He toughed out all the jokes, judgment and skepticism.
We can all take a cue from Tiger’s story, and the moral is this: No matter how hard we get knocked down, we can always get back up. America is the land of opportunity, and with the same traits as Tiger – determination, personal toughness, grit – anyone can overcome their own challenges, whether in their personal life or work life, or both.
His story also shows that it’s never too late to make a comeback. Tiger was at the Masters competing with other golfers that were half his age, and yet he prevailed. No matter what, we can all get better and do better. So long as we put our minds and hearts to work, it’s never too late to begin anew. Like Tiger, we just have to give it our best shot.