Suddenly, whether or not Tiger Woods plays in the Masters in April doesn’t seem all that important, does it?
That seemed to be the story Sunday and Monday in the golf world after Woods spoke with Jim Nantz on CBS during the Genesis Open, the weekend PGA Tour tournament that Woods hosts and which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation. Woods was not definite about whether his back procedure in December would keep him from playing in the Masters, which he has won five times. What will happen if Woods doesn’t play, the social media universe pondered.
But now we remember that pro athletes are not just widgets to be plugged in or pulled out of sporting events for the amusement of fans or the profit of owners. Athletes are human beings. They are flesh and blood and bones and subject to the same foibles and faults and disasters as the rest of us.
When the news of Woods’ car crash started filtering out Tuesday morning, the phrase “jaws of life” certainly grabbed your attention, even thought it turns out they weren’t used. Then the rest of the news, a single-car rollover with one occupant (Woods) made you worry more. Then the visuals hit television — the remains of the car, how it must have crossed over Hawthorne Boulevard in Rancho Palos Verdes, how it must have flipped a few times.
That single occupant became something more than a supremely talented athlete for the world to adore. That occupant also was a father, a son, and yes, someone that millions of golf fans look up to, even idolize.
Max Homa, who grew up in the Los Angeles, admitted that Woods is his idol and that Homa had a tough time even speaking while he met Woods on Saturday at the Genesis Open. The next day Woods handed the tournament trophy to Homa as the champion, and Homa joked on Twitter about the years he tried to get a high five from Woods at the tournament when Homa was a child.
Woods warming to fans, opponents
For years, Woods was a cold, calculating athlete, someone who rarely allowed fans or his opponents to get a glimpse inside of the mind or the heart of perhaps the best to ever play golf. But we all know that golf tends to humble athletes, and that Father Time is undefeated. As Woods has fought his body breaking down as well as personal demons from more than a decade ago, the cold-blooded winner has shown a softer side.
That was never more true than at the PNC Father-Son events in December where Woods played with his 11-year-old son Charlie and looked and acted every bit the doting father.
Tiger Woods of the United States and son Charlie Woods fist bump on the 18th hole during the final round of the PNC Championship at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club on Dec. 20, 2020, in Orlando, Florida.
Two months later, the worry from fans might be that Tiger Woods as a competitive golfer is finished, that the back problems that were threatening to sideline him anyway have now been supplanted by significant injuries that could certainly end his year if not his entire career.
People come back from car crashes, even professional athletes. Ben Hogan’s car was hit by a bus in 1949 and he was seriously injured, but he won six more major titles after that. But Hogan was 36 when he had his crash, while Woods is 45. And Hogan was in pain with his damaged legs for the rest of his life. We can hope Woods’ legs aren’t as damaged as Hogan’s.
We don’t know for sure why Woods crashed Tuesday, how it happened, the reasons behind the crash, and we don’t really even know the extent of the injuries at the moment other than the injuries required surgery and seemed to be focused on Woods’ legs.
What we know is that a famous athlete has been injured in an accident and that accident will no doubt impact the trajectory of that athlete’s career.
Tiger Woods is shown celebrating a chip-in at No. 14 on Sunday in 1999 at the Memorial Tournament.
But this is not an athlete to think about at the moment. This is the head of a foundation that works to provide opportunities for youths. It is Kultida’s son. This is the father of son Charlie and daughter Sam.
Tiger Woods the golfer has been very important to a lot of people through the years. But today, golf isn’t really that important at all. And it’s now that we remember that golfers and football players and baseball player are, after all, human beings.