Tiger Woods flirted with the ghost of Tiger past the first two days of the U.S. Open, and the world was breathless with its declaration that perhaps the old Tiger was back.
The new Tiger, though – the one who has become a pathetic figure – surfaced in the final two rounds, falling apart and disappointing all those fanboys who still dream of the days of dominance.
But what is it that people really would rather have? I believe it is not the old Tiger, but a replacement Tiger – another golfer who at least would create the aura of invincibility, if not match the invincibility Tiger had when he dominated the field every week – before his publicly-embarrassing marriage discretions and before his personal doctor was arrested for peddling illegal performance-enhancing substances.
If these are the choices fans have – the old Tiger, the current run of a new face winning every major, now 15 and counting, or a replacement Tiger, one of the new faces starting to dominate competition – fans will chose the replacement Tiger.
Why? Because the old Tiger will never exist, even if he returns to some form of excellence on the golf course.
No one will likely ever match the dominance of Tiger Woods in his prime – not even Tiger returning to form. But there seems to be a clamor behind one star emerging for fans to get behind, to celebrate, to admire.
The old Tiger could never be admired again – not with what we know now about him. Not after the infidelity scandal, the porn stars and Perkins waitresses, the book by former coach Hank Haney that details what a miserable, nasty, cheap and rude person Tiger Woods is.
His excellence could be admired. His golf could be admired. But the predictions of his father Earl that Tiger would be some sort of new “Gandhi” will have fallen far short.
What is Tiger Woods without the excellence?
Curtis Strange said on ESPN that after his U.S. Open meltdown, everyone has to live with the idea that “Tiger is human.” If Tiger is human, there’s not much there to root for.
This is why there was such a premature coronation of Rory Mcllory during last year’s U.S. Open at Congressional – a clamor for a replacement Tiger who people can feel good about cheering for.
Tiger, when he shows flashes of the old self, still moves all needles. And people will take that over all the different faces that have won PGA majors since the days of Tiger’s dominance.
But if a new version of Tiger emerges – even a scaled-down version – people will flock to him, and abandon the human Tiger to his humanity.
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