Let me preface this article with the admittance that I was pretty let down by the revelations of Tiger Woods' numerous transgressions with porn stars, waitresses—and seemingly anything that moved—over an adulterous escapade that seems to have spanned the entirety of his short career as husband and father.
Not because I felt it was really any of my business, and not because I felt he owed me anything.
But because I take the responsibilities of family and loyalty pretty seriously, and I generally feel disappointed in anyone who can't live up to them.
It really had nothing to do with Tiger, but I was still mad at him, and I wasn't sure that when I saw him on the course again he would inspire the same magnetic aura of infallibility.
After all, it was now clear that Woods was all too fallible, and possessed the same weaknesses that have haunted other fallen heroes of our time.
But I also am a firm believer in redemption, a firm believer in second chances, and a firm believer in the growth that often accompanies our mistakes.
Has Tiger learned from his mistakes?
Only time will tell.
Missteps can often be our greatest teachers, if we are willing to learn.
So, tentatively, I clicked on the live streaming coverage of Tiger's group on Friday to see if the magic was still there, or if the aura had been cracked.
And almost immediately, I was sucked into an entire day of golf, following his round and the rounds of others, as they progressed through the wonderland that is Augusta.
In a matter of seconds, none of the other garbage mattered.
The Masters is an event I follow every year, but I'll admit that I haven't followed golf much since Tiger's absence.
For some reason, the presence of Tiger in the field makes every other player that much more vibrant, interesting, and fan-worthy,while they seem almost drab in his absence.
Such is the size of his persona.
And there is little doubt that Woods picked the perfect venue for his return to the stage.
Augusta seems to be sprinkled with fairy dust such that anything seems possible and anyone redeemable, and against this remarkable backdrop Woods' game is as brilliant as ever.
As I write this, Tiger has followed his impressive 68 on Thursday with a solid 70 on Friday. He is only two shots off the lead and only Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood have a lower score (with Westwood still on the course).
How many other guys could handle the swirl of media, the half-year layoff, and the public crucifixion with this type of response?
How many other guys could have played the shot he did on 17, elevating a short iron over a large pine tree and dropping it 15 feet from the hole?
How many other players can stalk the leaderboard so consistently, no matter the conditions or circumstances?
That's why we can't look away.
It wasn't Woods' prowess as the ultimate husband and father that drew us to him in the first place, and it wasn't the products he pushed, or the Nike ads that glorified him.
Those were pleasant fairy tales that accompanied our societal ideals of perfection, foisted upon him as we attempted to elevate Tiger beyond what he was—and beyond what was reasonable.
And though inevitably that fairy tale was shattered, today it became clear that the great player remains.
The player who doesn't so much play a course but attempt to own it. The player with seemingly every shot in his bag, every tactic at his disposal, and every nerve under control.
He simply stands in a category of his own. You root for him to win, even though he's won more than his fair share, and you'd probably root for an underdog if he wasn't there.
Because on the golf course he does approximate our highest ideals.
His consistent excellence is fascinating to behold, and all challengers are that much more interesting because of the stark contrast he provides.
Our mistake is the mistake that we seem to make with all great men and women.
Our mistake is to extrapolate the striking of a little white ball to all facets of life, craving the same exhilaration in a world that often seems to be flawless only in its imperfections.
Our mistake was Tiger's mistake too, so perhaps it's that much more forgivable.
Tiger Woods is not a perfect human being.
But he is as close to a perfect athlete as I've seen in my days of following sports, and within that realm, his appeal is as magnetic as ever.
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