By Spencer Kellogg | USA
Last week, the bookmakers in Vegas raised eyebrows when they laid 20-1 odds on Tiger Woods to win a major championship in 2018. For arguably the greatest golfer in the history of the sport, this proves an intriguing opportunity for gamblers and odds makers alike. Tiger hasn’t won a championship in over a decade and the glory days of him running down eagle chip-ins and green jackets on the back 9 at Augusta while smothering his competition with a deadening glare seem a faint memory. He’s coming off of his 4th back surgery and last spring was videotaped visibly suffering through a simple chip shot. Though we’ve watched his career nosedive into oblivion following the sex scandals and numerous injuries, for those that saw Tiger in his prime, the willingness to believe he can win again should come as no surprise. At the height of his power, there was nobody in the world like Tiger.
On the golf course he was a one-man wrecking crew that made the best golfers of his day look downright amateurish. His dominance eclipsed the careers of such greats as Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson while spotlighting a new entry into the classically rich white sport. His racially mixed background of black and Asian drew great interest as diehard and casual fans flocked to witness a new era of the game. His wins extended far beyond the greens where Woods was viewed as a model husband and father with a charming smile and a consistently corporate friendly tone to match.
After winning his first major at the age of 21, Tiger never looked back as he won another 13 major championships before the age of 33. As a player, he had it all. He routinely out drove the competition by 50 yards, his putting game was like clockwork and around the greens his short game was unrivaled. Looking back, many of his best shots are chip-ins that still boggle the mind for their daring audacity and technical craftsmanship. Tiger also possessed the ability to funnel his anger and frustration into a weapon of inspiration that produced endless magic on the hardest courses in the world. Simply put he was a joy to watch. You always wanted to root for him and for the better part of a decade that’s exactly what we did as me and many casual golf fans didn’t miss a major championship. After winning the 2008 US Open, he was at the top of his game and in sight of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships. And then it all fell apart.
That Thanksgiving night we all watched the burning car on the side of the highway. The edge of a suburban pavement would come to embody so much of what Tiger and America, at large, were becoming: a broken lie. Overnight he went from being the new Michael Jordan of all sport and marketing to an adulterer high on Xanax and the corrosive smell of emptiness sat on all of our collective breath that night. The disease that sank Tiger Woods was a finely American mold built on the hedonistic proclivities that power and influence seem to indulge. Recently we have seen this same affliction throughout many industries in our society where flesh has clouded the reasonable judgment of otherwise good men. But enough of that, we’ve heard that story. I’ll let someone else tell it better than me.
For years after, I watched a downtrodden and beaten Woods miss cut after cut and disqualify at tournaments he had gleefully dominated with a stroll only years prior. It was depressingly addictive. Tiger cursed a lot and eventually, he just stopped showing up for majors all together in favor of rehabbing his latest injury. The late great Tiger Woods had all but become a punchline for radio jocks and beat writers across the country. They say Americans love a comeback story and although it’s hard to call any billionaire’s battle back from obscurity a comeback, fan lives for the moment they haven’t seen and Tiger produced those every weekend.
I think you should bet on Tiger. I think the only way you could convince yourself not to bet on Tiger at 20-1 is probably just your bitterness speaking. As a public, we have an insatiable appetite for unbridled greatness often regardless of the unethical steps it may take to get there. When those athletes prove to be liars or cheaters we coolly turn our backs without remorse for the human being we helped push to the brink. I can remember that feeling of Tiger stalking the greens and showing up the snobs in their country clubs. It was a fantastic conflict for a sport that had literally none. His signature fist pumps were a bolt of lightning for a game that once prized a sedate viewing experience. His arm slicing through the air in triumph and the electric reactions of fierce applause brought a whole new level of interest into the game and understanding between people. If there’s anyone capable of hitting a walk-off, getting the crowd behind him and linking together four solid rounds of golf, it’s Tiger. At 20-1 odds, that’s a bet worth taking.