Sunday, December 13, 2009

Good News from Tiger’s Camp

I know what you’re thinking. How can it be good news that Tiger’s stepping away from golf indefinitely? Are you CRAZY?

But, in keeping with my attempts not to touch the Tiger fiasco unless I find something that helps weekend golfers improve their games (that’s what my blog is about, after all), I see Tiger making a couple of good moves here… moves that weekend golfers should learn from.

In last week’s post about Tailgate I said that Tiger’s “fall from grace” didn’t tell us as much about his character as his actions after his “transgressions” had been exposed would.

Then came Friday night’s new statement. (Wouldn’t it be nice if, when your life got screwed up, you could just “issue a statement” and go back into hiding? Ah, the luxury of celebrity!) The media immediately went to work dissecting it, and will probably continue to do so, but here’s what I see that I think is good about it and what weekend players can learn.

The biggest thing to me isn’t that Tiger is taking things off, but that he actually used the word “infidelity.” The media is saying that perhaps this indicates Tiger is finally coming to grips with what he’s done, but I think it’s even more basic than that. We all know people who can’t admit they’re wrong, and we know how hard they are to get along with. Nobody can get anywhere until they learn to be honest with themselves. This is what I see here. The easiest person to fool is yourself, and the fact that Tiger is finally naming the sin indicates that he’s not trying to sugarcoat it to himself anymore. He’s not trying to hide it under fuzzy terms that allow him to tell himself that it wasn’t that bad and that people shouldn’t be so judgmental about it. To name the sin is to take responsibility for it; it doesn’t change the situation, but it’s the necessary (even critical) first step. After all, you can't solve the problem until you can admit what it is.

The other good news really is that Tiger is stepping away from the game for a while. It shows first of all that he really is being honest with himself; if the problem is of his own making, then fixing it is his responsibility, not the responsibility of his management team or his PR guys or his mom. And second, I think it shows a return to balance. Some will say that Tiger had put too much emphasis on his golf and not enough on his marriage, but I disagree. I don’t think he spent too much time golfing; after all that time working for Jesper’s family and being around the Tour, Elin certainly expected the best golfer in the world to spend a lot of time on his game. Tiger apparently just didn’t think his marriage was important enough to take care of it; how else can you explain such a blatant disregard for her feelings? Tiger lost track of what’s important in life; stepping away is a way of saying he intends to rectify that. Most of us wouldn’t be able to make a move that drastic, but that’s a benefit of being rich. (Quite frankly, given the apparently high number of women involved, I’m not sure such blatant abuse can be dealt with any other way. He’s going to have to find some way to make it obvious to Elin that she’s the only woman in his life if he wants to keep her. Pardon the pun, but this Tiger will have to voluntarily wear a short leash and make sure she always has a firm grip on it, which won’t be easy in his line of work.)

So what can weekend golfers learn from this?

You need to keep things in balance. Golf is not more important than other aspects of your life; if you aren’t making a living at it, it has even less importance. It can be a great outlet for frustrations, a way to deal with stress and hang out with friends, and something that can make you a better person… but you can’t let it take over and keep you from dealing with more important things. Ironically, if you use it to hide from those more important things, it will only end up ruining your golf as well.

And achieving that balance means you’ll have to be honest with yourself. You’ll have to accept the fact that you may never be a great golfer because you don’t have the time or energy to put into it, and you’ll have to accept that as your own choice and not take your frustration out on others. If you’re honest with yourself from the start, you may not have to face the painful kind of honesty later on.

That’s something all golfers – even Tiger – need to learn. And if we’re lucky, Tiger will be able to save his marriage and get his golf career back on track. It seems as if he’s finally making the right choices.

Good luck, Big Cat and Elin. I hope the healing comes sooner than later.

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