Golf is known as a gentleman’s sport.
It’s not every day (unless you’re John Daly) that golfers or fans act out of hand—it’s just the culture of the sport.
Tiger Woods, however, doesn’t have a normal following; the now-champion of 80 (yes, eighty) PGA tour events has a passionate, nearly animalistic fan base unlike anything golf has ever seen. As seen this Sunday at East Lake, golf fans LOVE Tiger Woods.
As he walked down 18, this Sunday, a disorganized mob followed him down the fairway. Myself included, fans were running around ropes, through bunkers, and over each other just to get a closer look at his bunker shot before he won the Tour Championship. As seen below, it was chaos rather unfamiliar to the sport of golf.
Standing in that mob though, the more I thought about Tiger the more I realized just how special it is that his following is so passionate. Have we ever seen anything like him?
Sure, there have been famous athletes adored (or at least respected) by an entire sport. To name a few, I immediately think of players like Jack Nicklaus, or even players like Derek Jeter or Cristiano Ronaldo to step outside of golf. There’s a difference among those players and Tiger though, and that is the enormity of Tiger Woods’ scandal a few years ago; if Tiger followed the script of most players involved with scandals of a large degree though, he wouldn’t still be on that list. But he is.
In a story that includes a mysterious car crash, over 15 mistresses, and a tragic divorce, the golf star fell out of glory in 2009. Or so we thought he would?
It seems to be the trend that a star of his caliber would be hated for these kinds of actions; a sports hero fallen out fans’ hearts due to short-sighted immorality and immaturity. In an age of social media where everything is so public, and it is so easy for fans to speak out against athletes, one would think such disgrace would stick. That wasn’t the case, however. Tiger lost sponsors, his #1 ranking in golf, but not his fans. Over time, it became apparent that the sports world didn’t want to see Tiger fail because of his actions; fans everywhere hoped for his dramatic return. What makes him so different from other players who have let negative media destroy their legacy?
I think it could be for a few reasons. First off, Tiger handled a press-conference apology rather well; he showed remorse and repentance for his actions pretty immediately in public after everything came out. But I think that another reason is because he really did lose everything for a while when his life went south.
Tiger lost his marriage, and a few years later, lost all physical capability with his back injury. His story is more than a fall though; it is a story of redemption. At his lowest, the sports world wondered if we would ever see him swing a golf club, much less win again.
But sure enough, Tiger showed up and dominated a field of the Top 30 golfers right now at the Tour Championship this weekend. His first victory in five years, and his 80th all time on the PGA tour, it felt like classic Tiger Woods was back. He was applauded all the way down every fairway that he walked, and in a heartwarming moment on the 18th green, despite his past and negative media, it seemed as if the entire world was happy to see him there.