As I sat in the 18th tower today and took in the panoramic view of the Augusta National Golf Club, it was clear to me we live in a forgiving society. The world’s greatest golfer and most talked-of athlete of our time, Tiger Woods, was approaching the final hole of his practice round when patrons who had been following him all morning welcomed him with a roaring ovation.
Fewer than five months ago, Woods was involved in a single-car accident that resulted in a citation for careless driving in front of his Orlando home the day after Thanksgiving. Since the accident Nov. 27, Woods has been publicly ridiculed and questioned about events in his personal life, includingÂ extra-marital affairs with up to 12 women during the last few years. This week, Tiger made his to return to the PGA Tour for the first time since these affairs have been made public at Augusta National for The Masters.
Watching Tiger Woods in person is an experience every true sports fan should have. Regardless of whether you approve of his actions off the course, he is the best at his sport and an athlete that comes along only once every generation.
As I walked the grounds here at Augusta National today, the atmosphere was tenser than usual. I wanted to see how the fans -Â or “patrons” as they are called here – would react to the return of the game’s greatest player on the most revered course in the world. As he approached his tee shots, a silence reigned that usually is not there even at a golf course.
I guess I expected those in attendance to treat him as if he had wronged them. But instead they revered him even more today than I have seen them do in the past.
If you have watched Tiger in person you know it is nearly impossible to watch more than one shot up close to him because of his enormous galleries. People will wait for hours on a fairway or a green to see just one shot in his round. Today was no different. In fact, these practice-round crowds may have been the biggest I’ve ever seen around Tiger in any tournament.
The atmosphere was full ofÂ more thanÂ excitement – it was curiosity. They all wanted to witness how the “new Tiger” would react inside the ropes. I could tell even though the crowd knew the No. 1 player in the world had admitted to these mistakes, and he was not the person we as a sports nation thought he was, they all wanted a reason to cheer for him again.
After a few holes of this hesitancy amongst the crowd, the cheers began to grow louder, and the familiar encouragement from the gallery begin to build with every hole.
After he sank his final putt of the day, Woods tipped his cap to the endearing Masters gallery and then hugged his playing partner Mark O’Meara as walked off the green to fans shouting,”Welcome back Tiger. We missed you.”
Golf fans may not be completely ready to forgive and forget Tiger’s mistakes, but the majority of those here, it seems, are ready to give him a second chance.