Tiger Woods’ Recovery Could Be an Opportunity to Redefine Success

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Will Tiger Woods be able to climb back to the top of the mountain again after suffering serious leg injuries in an automobile accident on Tuesday? 

Perhaps a better question is: “Does Tiger Woods need to climb any more mountains?” 

Perhaps Tiger will take the unconventional route and defy the expectations of his fans. Perhaps he can go from extraordinary to simply ordinary, instead of the other way around. He can go from playing golf at an elite level to playing putt-putt with his kids. And there is nothing wrong with that. 

At 45, Tiger Woods has very little to prove. He has charted new territories in many ways: busting barriers for minorities in a sport dominated by whites for decades and making golf “must see” TV for many who didn’t care much for it otherwise. He also sweetened the pot for his fellow golfers by making the sport a more lucrative enterprise. 

Fame has its downside, and Woods has not been bulletproof when it comes to his reputation. He wrecked a marriage with his affairs and in the process sullied his reputation. He can also be aloof and off-putting. 

His relationship with fans is “complicated,” as the kids say in Facebook. 

But he remains an icon in the world of sports. His 2019 win at the Masters is considered by many to be the greatest comeback in sports history. 

Given his competitive nature, Tiger is very likely going to try to make it back on the golf course and chase more majors. His work ethic and drive are impeccable and reminds us of another older athlete who has achieved great things later in life. Take a bow, Tom Brady. 

But a reality check is necessary. 

Tiger has needed surgery on his left knee five times — half of 10 surgeries he has needed during his career. And now comes more damage labeled by one doctor as “significant orthopedic injuries to his lower extremity.”  

That’s a lot of wear and tear, as we ponder the enigma of Tiger Woods. 

As Kyle Porter wrote for a piece on cbssports.com commemorating Tiger’s 45th birthday in December: 

“Tiger Woods turned 45 on Wednesday, which feels wrong by about 15 years in both directions. Functionally, Woods is operating with the body of somebody who’s probably 60 (or older). But the vision we have of him in our minds will likely forever be the 30-year-old supernova who looked like he could bend the arc of reality to his will and exist as the best to ever do it into perpetuity.” 

We don’t know how this is going to play out. But maybe it’s best to keep this in perspective. 

It’s OK to consider Tiger Woods human, first and foremost. An extraordinary man, thankful to be alive, free to thrive as a private citizen beyond his uncertain future in professional sports.