Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tiger's a golfer, not a role model

If he wins the Masters, will you be angry? Why?

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Tiger WOODS will win a major soon and maybe even this Sunday at the Masters. He's ready for it. Are we?

You can be assured, should Woods have Augusta National's emblematic green jacket slipped over his shoulders late Sunday afternoon, there will be discussion and debate in living rooms all over the world.

Some will be happy for him. Others will seethe with contempt.

Tiger Woods cheated on his wife. A lot. Then he got caught and had the tabloid press mercilessly spread the details of pancake house parking lot trysts and five-star hotel assignations in a news cycle that lasted for months.

Woods and his proclivities took on serial killer status and at the very same time his body and golf game fell apart.

An unpredictable vortex latched on like a thirsty leech and the man who liked to control all had his feet of clay shattered into so many pieces upon crashing to Earth.

Now, slowly but surely, Wood has put his golf game back together and apparently his life. Recently photos of him and his ex-wife watching their kids play soccer were followed up by the announcement Woods was dating U.S. Olympic downhill skier Lindsey Vonn.

Woods has won three tournaments on the PGA this season and was the favourite in the eyes of many golf analysts heading into the year's first major.

Tiger is back. Almost. Woods won't really be on top again until he's won a major.

Winning the Farmers Insurance Open or Mastercard Invitational does not strike the same chord in America's collective conscience as does the Masters.

No one is going to get too worked up about Woods cashing a cheque in Miami. But at Augusta? That's a different story.

Vonn skewered Woods at the time of his personal meltdown, offering a very public critique of his staged apology to sponsors and fans.

"They're like, 'Yeah, you're awesome, you go have that sex,' " Vonn said, taking a jab at Woods and his forgiving entourage.

Her stance seems to have softened, however, and she has been seen following Woods at tournaments including this week.

Vonn clearly has more at stake in Woods and his behaviour than the rest of us and celebrities are not immune to redemption. They too deserve a second chance.

Personally, Woods is just a golfer to me. I won't be holding him up as an example, good or bad, to friends or family.

My perspective is perhaps a little different. I've spent my professional life around athletes and know them to be flawed, no more and no less, as are we all.

Woods can hit a high fade like no one else on the planet but that's where the admiration begins and ends.

Being angry at Woods, as many people certainly are, is perhaps an opportunity for a little self analysis. Who are you really mad at and why? Some stranger in golf shoes? Probably not.

Woods sold the squeaky clean image for profit and turned out to be a fraud in that sense. He wasn't the first and he won't be the last. It's almost a guarantee that one of the idols in your house isn't what he or she pretends to be. Shocking, I know.

A colleague told me Friday morning he wants Woods to win this weekend because it will make for great theatre and when he is at his best, there's nothing like it in the world.

It's true, when Woods is right and at the top of his game, it's virtuoso and worthy of appreciation.

To be honest, I hope Tiger's got his personal stuff ironed out. I hope he's found some inner peace. I hope the same for you.

But that's not why I'll be watching Sunday. I'll be watching for the sport. The competition and the pursuit of excellence.

Sports isn't life. Woods isn't anything but a human-athlete.

I'll judge the golfer on his merits from tee to green. The rest? That's not my game.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2013 C7

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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