By DEVON SMITH
Two and a half years after he hooked his Escalade into an oak tree, Tiger Woods has a smile on his face and a spring in his swing.
On March 25, after pushing through scandal, scorn and injury, Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This was his first major tournament win in the two and a half years since his personal and professional lives started their downward spiral from which many saw no salvation. And up until now, they appeared to be right.
Shortly after the incident with the oak tree, Woods found himself under attack. Rumours of infidelity turned into what seemed like droves of women going public with proof of it.
The golfer who millions came to idolize and adore shocked the world with his dark and dirty secrets.
America’s golden boy went down in an inferno of public scorn, family trauma and corporate rejection.
But such is the fate of a person placed on so high a pedestal, for no one is perfect. And the higher the pedestal, the harder the fall.
Maybe that pressure is what drove him to “market his balls” better than Nike ever could. Maybe the world held him to an unfair standard. These points could be argued indefinitely. In the end, only Woods himself knows why he did what he did.
One thing that can’t be argued, however, is that this was a devastating blow to Woods’s career.
He took what he called “an indefinite break from professional golf” on Dec. 11, 2009, to attempt to fix the colossal divot that was his marriage.
Less than four months later, after extensive therapy and soul searching, Woods stepped back onto the course for the 2010 Masters Tournament. The man that teed up then, however, wasn’t the same kid who took the golfing world by storm 10 years earlier.
No, this man was much older, and it showed. Not only did he not win that tournament, but in the next two years he would be on and off the course with injuries, accomplishing little of any significance. Unless you count losing his wife, his longtime coach, his loyal caddy and the respect of much of the golfing world.
All of this only served to make last week’s victory that much more momentous. The win came less than two weeks before the 2012 Masters is set to start and exhibited what Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press called “a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged.”
The Masters will be the real stage for a comeback, if there is ever to be one. It will be the true test of whether or not Woods will ever again approach his former glory.
There is no question he has supporters, although not as many as before. But mark my words, if he pulls through in this next tournament, his supporters will be coming out of the “wood”work, so to speak.