Tiger wins: A tale of transformation

This is my take on how Tiger transformed to become the father, son and man he always wanted to be, and—bonus—a Masters champion once again.


As Tiger Woods was joyously hugging his kids, mom and girlfriend after winning the Masters, my brother Sean sent me a text:

“Stop crying.”

Me: “I can’t.”

All over social media, people shared how Tiger’s victory caused major waterworks. The poignancy of Tiger’s unlikely comeback from immense personal and physical pain stands as one of the greatest comeback—and dare I say, redemption—stories of all time. 

Tiger’s victory at age 43 connected many of us with parts of the human spirit that we cherish: perseverance and resilience for sure, and most certainly love, and that it is quite possible to transform. I believe there’s lots we can learn from Tiger’s experience.

Of course, not everyone is thrilled for Tiger. Many people cannot forgive him for his serial philandering that came to light in 2009 and led to his divorce. He was also known for being profane in public, ungrateful, and being a miserable jerk.

I get it. As a media consultant for Nike Golf Canada for 10 years, I stood next to him a number of times, but he never shared eye contact, a word or a wink.

It bugged me, but I remained a huge fan. I rationalized that he was the world’s greatest celebrity athlete, and that he dealt with the constant attention by connecting in precise allotments as an act of self-preservation.

When the 2009 revelations broke, I was angry at him for perpetuating a façade as the ideal family man. I also think I felt foolish for falling for it hook, line and sinker. 

With a vengeance, the world took its pound of flesh, mocking him and unleashing a vicious shaming beat-down. At times, the world seems like a schoolyard; when the snooty rich kid falls down, a horde rushes over to get its kicks in. 

When Tiger apologized to the world with his mother looking on sternly at a carefully scripted news conference in the aftermath, he appeared contrite, sincere and definitely humbled. 

I was willing to believe he was genuinely remorseful.

But many didn’t, and they had good reasons. He continued to maintain a façade that everything was great, when it wasn’t. He’d declare himself healthy and withdraw from tournament, and blame his chip yips on new mechanics. Every stumble was dissected with scorn and derision. 

When he was found asleep at the wheel from a combination of painkillers, and the embarrassing mug shot and roadside police videos went viral, it looked like he had bottomed out. Was he just another irresponsible flame- out? Had I’d be been fooled again?

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After eight surgeries—four on his knees, four on his back—it seemed impossible that Tiger could ever rebound from being a pitiful pariah and a scarred old punching bag whose many blows were self-inflicted. 

As I read more about Tiger, I concluded that his father Earl set Tiger up for success in golf, but for failure in life. A liar and philander described as the worst kind of stage father, Earl set Tiger up to see the world through a me-first lense, like a little boy.

His friends said Tiger was shy and awkward by nature, and that he felt alienated and angry as a dark-skinned kid competing in an almost exclusively white country club sport.

This isn’t to give Tiger excuses, but to provide context. 

To those who say they still can’t forgive Tiger, I offer this:

Yes, Tiger is a flawed man.

I am a flawed man.

Every man and woman is flawed.

We all screw up. We have faults, weaknesses, and shadows; we all suffer from traumas and addictions, big and small. And like many men, Tiger was really a boy. 

At a certain point, I believe Tiger decided it was time to grow up, and be the father, partner, son and citizen that he truly wanted to be. 

It’s my sense that he did the best any of us can do: take responsibility for our actions and their consequences, face what’s not working in our lives and take it on.

Redemption and transformation are only possible after doing battle—taking on your personal demons, the ones you’ve avoided all your life, finally facing them in the eye and going to war with them. 

Taking them on is the greatest challenge, but once that first step is made, everything changes and anything is possible.

Even Tiger Woods winning the Masters again. 

And that is worth celebrating with tears of joy.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!


  1. Greetings Tim

    To put things into perspective, I work with your brother Sean at PG and I also graduated from University of Guelph in Zoology and Nutrition. As a single father and survivor three life threatening situations, I appreciate your shout out for the flawed human.
    As a young man, I gave up a summer travelling Europe to be a looper at Wianno Caddy Camp in Cape Cod. Seeing the “dark side” of golf, it took a few decades and genetics to inspire me to strike the wee white ball again. Now, I golf with Marines..whose motto is: Honour, Courage and Commitment. I can see how this motto is applicable both in life and in golf.
    Once I was told I would never be able to walk nor do athletic endeavours. Five years later, I managed to become a professional yacht captain racing in Newport and throughout the world. As a yacht captain, I was privy to the world of wealth and exclusive societies such as the New York Yacht club. As a common man, I got to see behind the smoke and mirrors. I truly believe that folks need to give their own reflections in the mirror a thorough and humble evaluation prior to tossing barbs and output to other folks glass houses.

    So..thank you for your reflections. Would always appreciate a chat.
    Marc Carmichael


  1. […] excellent blog about how Tiger’s win at Augusta represents personal redemption. You can read it HERE. Tim is quite persuasive but I’m still not convinced. I’ll just suffer in relative silence […]