Image is everything, or so we’re told, especially when you’re in the public eye. But if looking the business can mean the difference between success and failure in showbiz, does it also follow that if you’re a bit rough around the edges in sport, you’re a loser?
Certainly not if your name is Tiger Woods. He recently clinched an impressive victory in The Players Championship, after Spain’s Sergio Garcia’s game imploded over the closing two holes at Sawgrass – when he twice missed the green at 17 and then double-bogied the final hole – leaving a triumphant Woods the last man standing. He’s one of golf’s classiest stars, but how much of a role has his image played in that success?
Golf’s Smooth Operator
Long before he snapped up his first Major in 1997, Woods had people talking about his amazing game – and when he finally turned professional, his impeccable style. Not for him the over-the-top outfits of Ian Poulter, or more recent colorful stylings of Rickie Fowler. Woods, sartorially, at least, is one of golf’s more elegant figures. Of course being well turned-out doesn’t make you a champion. Tiger Woods has spent his whole life refining and honing his natural talent, turning all that hard work into trophies and victories.
It’s fair to say that his perfectionism extends beyond the game to include what he wears on the fairway. He isn’t the first golfer to have his own clothing line, nor is his tradition of wearing a red shirt on the last day of competition anything new. Gary Player always wore black, Seve Ballesteros favored blue, while the aforementioned Fowler stands out from the crowd with his final-day color-choice of orange. Woods’ trademark cap is also just as much a part of his look..
Out of the Shadows
Of course, for Woods the rough ride he has had in the media over the past couple of years is undeniable. In 2009, the image he had worked so hard to create and maintain was shattered when damaging details about his personal life emerged, summarily followed by a divorce from model Elin Nordegren. The contrite man who subsequently said: “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled… I was wrong. I was foolish.”
He seemed light years away from the idol to millions around the world. There was once a time when he was the most feared player in golf, and his name was the answer to Ernie Els’ celebrated one-word quip about what he would have to shoot in order to win a title. Yet even before the personal scandal hit the headlines, some thought Tiger’s powers were waning. He was plagued with niggling injuries, there was much chatter in the US and international press about the state of his swing, while even darker days lay ahead.
Skip forward to 2013 and it seems like the old Woods is back. Even with the slip-up at Augusta, where he took an erroneous drop shot, prompting howls of protest from some corners, Tiger won out. The swing is as glorious as ever, and his ability to put the ball just about wherever he darned-well pleased during the final round of The Players Championship demonstrated to his rivals and critics that he is every bit as good as he said. His focus will now turn to golf’s big tournaments of the summer – British and US Opens. While Spain’s Garcia licks his wounds, he – along with every other golfer signing up for the Majors – will also be well aware that the man who seemed to have lost it all just a couple of years ago has returned with a vengeance. If he can produce similar displays at Muirfield and Ardmore respectively, then it can only great news for the game, not to mention the man himself.
More Than Just Image at Stake
The challenges Woods has endured have left his image somewhat tarnished, but they have also added character to the man.
His decision to continue playing the game he has loved since childhood has proved to be not only a brave one, but a wise one too. Sport focuses the brain on specific goals and targets, forcing players to push other emotional or physical issues to the backs of their minds. In doing so, it also makes participants more mentally disciplined – if they are able to hole that putt, score that goal, sink that basket, they can then use that new-found skill when facing illness or adversity. It has already been proved that sport can help educate people about serious health issues, and taking up physical activities such as golf or cycling can also help those struggling with other medical conditions, as patients find ways to cope with the aftermath of surgeries or treatments for diseases affecting their lungs, heart and other major organs. Obviously, it can also ensure youngsters don’t fall prey to the dangers of not looking after their bodies in the first place.
Plato famously said: “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” Anyone battling personal demons, whether emotional or medical, could do worse than to get out a golf club and have a swing, as Tiger gets back to what he does best – winning.