Long road to redemption

Long road to redemption


Long road to redemption

Tiger Woods and Augusta National. You can make the case that the two were made for each other.

Augusta, steeped in tradition, was once the immovable bastion of exclusion based on race and gender. With pressure and time, Augusta eventually opened its membership to African-Americans.

Woods, the greatest golfer of his era, said in a startling public admission that he felt the rules of society did not apply to him. He denied and stonewalled, then vowed to change only after being humiliated by revelations of extramarital affairs and humbled by some of the most intense news media scrutiny a public figure has endured.

Woods announced last week that he would return to playing next month at Augusta National Golf Club for the year's first major championship. Thus begins a long and arduous process of restoring a reputation.
The storyteller in me would love to see Woods take the Masters by storm. The moralist, frankly, doesn't care.

He has taken his tumble and seen his family's name dragged through the mud. He has seen his children photographed and his family stalked. It's time for Woods to get on with the rest of his life.

Augusta is the perfect venue. This is where Woods won the first of his 14 major titles in 1997. Officials will minimise, if not eliminate, negative gallery reaction to Woods' return. Even fans who might want to let Woods have it probably won't, for fear of losing their admission badges. Or worse.

In the months since a one-car crash set off a scandal and led to Woods' admission of adultery, Woods has become the lightning rod for wide-ranging discussions about everything from the boundaries of news coverage to the sanctity of marriage.
Tiger Woods has become everybody's essay question.
 David M Carter, the director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, gave his class this question as part of a spring exam:

Tiger Woods is poised to return to the PGA Tour following an extended absence due to personal reasons. Describe the impact this controversy, including his time away from the sport and return to the Tour, has and may continue to have on sports business.
"We have, unfortunately, spent a lot of time on Woods," Carter said. "Probably too much time. But the issues he represents touch on every element of the industry." Woods will have to deal with those issues beginning next month at Augusta, where he will face a new type of pressure. He is not the conquering hero coming back from injury, limping, grimacing, heroically stalking the leaders or holding off the pack.
He is a fallen hero, shamed and disgraced. The air of invincibility has been replaced by vulnerability. The mental toughness for which he has been known -- and well paid -- will be put to the test.

He will have to play well enough to convince sponsors that he has not lost his magic. He probably will. The British bookmaker William Hill has already installed Woods as the 4-1 favorite to win the Masters. The greater challenge for Woods will be to respond with dignity and restraint to a news media circus.

"He cannot be dismissive and arrogant," Carter said. "He's got to show the soccer moms that he is a changed man and convince sponsors that they should come back."
Finally, and for Woods, most important, how will he interact with a news media that played such a pivotal role of sculpturing an image of valour and integrity, then helped smash it to pieces in a matter of weeks?
In three weeks, Woods will begin a new chapter of his life in a place as close to any he can now call home.
Augusta and Tiger. In so many ways, they belong together.

William C Rhoden
New York Times News Service

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