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Will Woods shake up golf again

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A 21-year-old Woods turned golf upside down and inside out when he won the Masters in 1997. Pretty much like Ali did to boxing in ‘64

Tiger Woods of the U.S. watches his drive off the fifth tee during first round play of the 2019 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S.

IF THE late, great Muhammad Ali could send Tiger Woods a WhatsApp message this morning, it would probably say something like: “I shook up the world. You shook up the world. Now go and do it again, bro.”

When Ali beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to capture the world heavyweight crown and kick-start a magnificent career, the likes of which the sport had not seen before or since, he famously shouted: “I shook up the world. I’m pretty. I must be the greatest. I shook up the world.”

A 21-year-old Woods turned golf upside down and inside out when he won the Masters in 1997. Pretty much like Ali did to boxing in ‘64.

Fast forward 22 years. Woods is once again preparing for the Masters. And if he wins this weekend, it will cause the same explosion of excitement as in 1997.

To briefly recap: Woods has not added to his 14 Majors since winning the US Open on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008. He has battled one injury after the next, including back pain so severe he could barely get out of bed.

There was the public scandal surrounding his marriage. And he now faces a high-quality field, where the vast majority of the 87 players are legitimate title contenders.

But if he does win, there will be one essential difference between the Woods of 2019 and the 2008 version.

Over the years, Woods has been admired and respected. Now he is loved. Because he has opened the window to his gentle side. He now signs autographs for the kids, instead of ignoring them.

He has shared his pain with us, and reached out to us with his dazzling smile and his quick, sharp wit.

It’s been a momentous week for golf. The staging of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week erased a little bit of the shameful stain left by decades of gender and racial discrimination at the club. It was a joyous moment for all women golfers.

Sunday night could just be a joyous moment for Woods, too.