Tiger Woods wasn’t very good as the villain. As a person and a player, it just didn’t fit his persona. Whether that persona is real or created by the red baron himself for the public doesn’t matter. What matters is Woods never seemed comfortable as the villain and has worked tirelessly to get back in good standing with the general population of the United States.
With his win at the Masters, Woods seemingly did that. He won his first major since his marriage scandal rocked golf a decade ago on the day after Thanksgiving, 2009. He won it in comeback fashion, also a first for Woods, and also fitting considering what he had to overcome to get to that point (back surgeries, new swing, younger competition). He won it in front of his entire family and his hug with his son afterward was as iconic as his hug with his dad in 1997.
But no comeback story is complete without a follow-up story extolling the hero for virtues beyond the game, and Woods just got his.
ESPN golf writer Bob Harig posted a touching story about Woods sending a video to fellow PGA Tour player Harold Varner III’s friend, who is battling cancer, ahead of the Masters. The story eloquently explains what Woods said in the video and how much it meant to Varner and his childhood buddy. But more so than that, it proved the public (and media) is ready to heap praise on Woods again, no strings attached, no mention of his past (literally, none in this story, which makes sense because it has nothing to do with it), no thought of his future. Just simple, positive press from an event (the Wells Fargo Championship) Tiger Woods isn’t playing in.
That’s how it used to be. Players were asked about Tiger at every tour stop. They were asked to regal media members with tales of his greatness, both on and off the course, while ignoring the growing number of skeletons in Woods’ closet. Then, after the scandal, media members asked players if Woods could ever win again, who he was friends with on tour, and what he was really like off the course.
Meanwhile, Woods was engaged in charitable acts during this time. His foundation was supporting kids. He was probably also sending words of encouragement to people battling adversity. Was that covered then, when he was the villain? No. Why? Because the storyline was negative around Woods.
Now that’s changed, and unless Woods does something horrible again, he will be remembered henceforth as the hero he always wanted to be, and not the villain he made himself out to be once upon a time.