Opinion: Tiger Woods celebrates first PGA victory in 28 months

Nick Shook

Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, his first PGA Tour victory in 28 months.

What a 28 months it was.

Woods was involved in a car accident on Thanksgiving in 2009, with reports surfacing that he had been beaten by his enraged (now ex-) wife, Elin Nordegren, with one of his own golf clubs after she discovered he was engaging in an extramarital affair. That was just the tip of the iceberg in the Woods family fiasco, as woman after woman, mistress after lover, came out of the woodwork to gladly tell stories about their escapades with the greatest golfer on the planet.

What followed an encyclopedia’s breadth of dirty tales about Tiger’s infidelity only worsened his situation. Elin Nordegren filed for what would turn out to be a very profitable divorce, Woods retracted from remaining events of his 2009 season, fellow golfers gladly took shots at the man they had been chasing in the standings for years and multiple sponsors dropped Woods from their company endorsement deals.

Tiger began his long and difficult road to recovery, but he didn’t make it any easier on himself. Overworking his knee resulted in another injury, he fired his longtime caddy and friend Steve Williams, his swing coach quit, his wife moved to Sweden and he lost his No. 1 ranking.

Tiger’s story went from being shocking to humorous, to pitiful, as millions watched not only his golf game fall apart, but also the rest of his life. Writers and broadcasters went from criticizing to reflecting upon the Tiger of old, the Tiger that we all thought we may never see again. We may never again see Tiger in his Sunday red shirt and black pants, walking up a fairway with that piercing look of determination in his eyes.

Two swing adjustments, a new caddy and a few putter changes later, Woods still was struggling to find his old form. But Sunday he was different; Sunday he was almost the old Tiger Woods. His victory was a great sight to see, and very reassuring to whatever fans he had left.

But that brings me to my most important point.

I, as many other fans, was glad to see Tiger win. In part, because now I didn’t need to see or read another “Tiger Woods: What Happened?” feature ever again. And also, because I get to sit back and witness one of the most frustrating phenomenons in sports: frontrunning.

What is frontrunning, you ask? Frontrunning is what fans who have no ties to any great team often do. Miami Heat fans, Boston Red Sox fans and coming soon, Denver Broncos fans (thanks to Peyton Manning’s move to the Mile High City) all fall into this category. As soon as one team makes a move that is highly beneficial, these frontrunners (or bandwagoners) are the first to say that they’ve always been a fan of such-and-such, even when they just made the switch.

But Tiger Woods’ case is unique because he is one athlete. He is his own team. When he fails, all the blame is on him, and when he succeeds, all glory is his. This makes his reemergence so appetizing for a fan and reporter like myself. It’s all or nothing for Tiger, and it’s almost an immediate rise or descent.

Now that he’s won one event, all of his “fans” were the first to tweet and praise a man they once loved to make jokes about and kick when he was down. All hail Tiger!

But now, the expectations are going to rocket right back up to old Tiger levels, when he was nearly unbeatable. The conversation following Tiger’s victory was “what a great momentum-builder heading into the Masters!”

You mean to tell me that a man who didn’t win a single event for 28 months is now all of the sudden the favorite to win the Masters?

Thus is the power of the golfer and man that is Tiger Woods. One win and suddenly he’s the greatest again.

I have just one warning for you frontrunners, and you Tiger Woods fans that are now eagerly crawling out of your bomb shelters after 28 months of hiding: be careful when jumping on that bandwagon so fast — you might sprain an ankle.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].