“The Return to Glory”Jim Nantz, on Tiger Woods resurrected game, and victory at the 2019 Masters.
When Tiger Woods stood yesterday over that last three foot putt, the whole world held their breath. I know did. In some way, shape or form; we have all been there.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was in the final round of a golf club championship, only advanced to that level because of the luck of “match play” format, which forgave my regular blow ups. On the seventeenth hole I stood over a three foot putt, poised to win, against a woman MUCH better than I was. Going through my head was the following, “I can’t be the club champion. I’m not good enough.” Needless to say, I missed. On the next hole, same putt, same thoughts. This time worse, “When you dribble off the tee people are going to say ‘She’s the club champion.’?” Guess what happened ? (I missed again.) Onto sudden death, and a concession on my tenth sand trap shot, to the woman who deserved it.
Looking at Tiger yesterday, I felt empathy. I had been there in golf, and with much less at stake, in life. I texted with a feminist friend, someone unlikely to be in Tiger’s camp. “I’m rooting for Tiger,” she said. #metoo.
But why? Was it that we all want a comeback story? After winning 79 tour titles in his first 18 years as a pro, Tiger had hit a proverbial leaderboard desert, and had gone without winning a major since 2008. He had spent much of the last three and a half years struggling with pain, recovering from multiple unsuccessful surgeries. Pride and personal shame had taken their toll after deviant behavior and public scandal defined his world. Some of these things were within his control, some were not. Given the magnitude of his transgressions, one might suspect he had a feeling of superiority and invincibility, after realized wealth and power had gone to his head. (Hard to feel sorry for a billionaire. But we did. )
What made yesterday one of the biggest moments in the history of the sport of golf? Possibly the fact that golf is more of a game about concentration than coordination. It is about the human psyche, and involves much more than perseverance and prowess. But mostly it is a game about respect; respect for the traditions, respect for nature, respect for your opponent and I will say, as we saw today, respect for our human nature, in all its imperfections.
After the downturn in his personal life, Tiger connected most deeply with Buddhism, the religion he was raised on. He had a meditation practice, and probably could not have come back without it. His mother, from Thailand, had taught him self-reliance and independence, and took him to the temple growing up. His strong military-trained father had pushed him hard. This unique combination helped to shape him, as did the faith he came to have in himself.
“I don’t believe that human beings can achieve ultimate enlightenment, because humans have flaws,” said Tiger.
“Buddhism teaches that a craving of things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught,” he said.
That’s the true nature of compassion and forgiveness isn’t it? Letting go of our anger, and seeing the light in another human being, and ourselves. We often miss that last part. I am not suggesting all Tiger’s behaviors were OK, and that others weren’t hurt in the process; these things are true. But these facts, and forgiveness, are not mutually exclusive.
Mindfulness is forgiveness, and non-judgment, too. And whether that is more a gift to Tiger, or to the rest of us, the letting go of anger and letting a guy find his way back, we don’t know, just that it is right. And it feels good. Thank God for Grace.
With many a doubt, and much anticipation of how he’d finish up, the world, and Tiger waited and watched and breathed yesterday as he took things one step at a time. It was almost a parable, befitting the Holy Week. But in the end, after trips to the top of the world and plummeting to the bottom of a pit, Tiger persevered, and found himself back on top, thanks to his faith in himself and presence of mind.
And after he sunk that last putt on 18, and there had been some celebration, Tiger slipped on his fifth Master green jacket. “It fits” he said. And the whole world exhaled.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”