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Allen: Woods embodies dominance in modern era (March 2)

Chris Allen | Saturday, March 2, 2013

 

It has become a routine sequence of events for any sports fan.

Tiger Woods, clothed in his customary Sunday red polo, leans over a putt and settles. He draws back his putter, follows the ball into the hole and erupts with a simple motion that has become synonymous with his success – he pumps his fist.

In the 13 years since 2000, Tiger Woods has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But we love Tiger because he demonstrated more than any athlete of his era a quality of dominance that is unsurpassed.

Golf by its nature, is a sport where anyone in the field at major championships can make a run at a title with a few days of good play. The wide-open nature of the competition gives fans great pleasure in speculating on who will win the sport’s big trophies.

Starting in 2000, golf suddenly became a two-man game. One man was named Tiger Woods. The other was named, “The Field.” There was no openness. There was Tiger, and then everyone else.

A 24-year old Woods began his decade of dominance at the 2000 U.S. Open, at the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links. In an event designed to challenge the game’s best golfers – and often make them shoot above par – Woods reeled off a master class in four rounds. He shot 12-under for the tournament and won the U.S. Open by 15 strokes.

From that point on, golf ceased to be about the competition; instead, it became a yearly display of how many majors Tiger would win. Between 2000 and 2008, Tiger won 12 major championships, which, combined with his two titles from the 1990s, put him among the game’s greatest players.

But with Tiger Woods, it’s about so much more than just the wins he accumulated on courses around the world. It’s about the way he won and the brand he built. It’s the brilliance of a golfer from African-American and Asian-American backgrounds dominating a game that historically was resistant to those who looked different from its past champions. It’s the red polo, the Nike swoosh and the way other golfers seemed to wither in his presence on final-round Sundays. It’s the commercials, the video games and the merchandising. It’s the brand that Tiger built that made him the logical continuation of Michael Jordan for the new century.

But the tragic fall escapes few athletes, and Tiger fell in a way not many athletes before him had. The success and clean image we saw in Tiger Woods in years past made his marital scandal and lurid adulterous relationships seem all the more shocking. We, as sports fans, like to think our sports heroes will continue being great regardless of what happens off the playing field (or off the course). But Tiger Woods felt the impact of his off-course transgressions and saw it affect his golf game, as the world’s unquestioned No. 1 player dropped back in the back and back to Earth. Suddenly, he was just another golfer again, one tarnished with the mark of scandal.

One thing remarkable about the American sports fan base is its ability to forgive. When its heroes are torn down, it wants to see them rebuild their lives. With time, America has begun to embrace Tiger Woods. It has seen Tiger rehabilitate his personal life. It has seen him begin to dominate on the course again, and every once in a while when Tiger pumps his fist, it feels like little has changed. There are new challengers to the legend of Tiger, but in 2013 the second act of a definitive sports legend is beginning. We don’t know if Tiger Woods will ever be what he was in 2001, but we do know one thing for sure.

No athlete has defined the 21st century as much as the man who needs only one name – Tiger.

 

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.