Philadelphia, PA – Everyone should be punched in the face at least once in their life.
Without a good a** kicking, without some pain and struggle, it's tough to grow.
Tiger Woods is just dragging himself off the mat after an extended beating -- one which cost him his unchallenged status as the world's best golfer, and the better part of his public image.
He won five times this season and reclaimed his No. 1 world ranking, but he went 0-for-4 in majors. By Tiger's standards, 2013 was a lost year. Let's not forget, he was the one who marked Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors as the measuring stick for his career.
Woods had a pair of top-10 finishes in majors this year (T4 at the Masters, T6 at the British Open). He tied for 32nd at the U.S. Open, while battling and elbow injury, and saved his worst major performance for last at the PGA Championship, where he posted four rounds in the 70s at forgiving Oak Hill (eventual winner Jason Dufner broke the course record on Friday and Webb Simpson tied it) and struggled to shoot par during an irrelevant Sunday, finishing in a tie for 40th.
Tiger missed fairways and putts, scrambled for pars, tweaked his lower back and quietly left the course before Dufner grabbed the Wanamaker Trophy, the spotlight and a handful of his wife's backside Sunday evening.
"It's always frustrating going out there, and I'm 3-over today, got to seven, and I'm grinding my tail off coming in just to shoot even par for the day. And I'm nowhere in it. That's tough," he admitted.
This isn't the Tiger we expected to see when he was blitzing fields in the early 2000's, but I like this Tiger. There is something endearing and relatable about watching him grind and grimace, grab his ailing elbow or back, and take what Charles P. Pierce recently referred to as the "burdened walk" up the fairway.
Adversity is humanizing. When Tiger was dominating years ago he wasn't relatable, he was superhuman. That was the attraction, but his story was devoid of drama: it wasn't if he would break Jack's record, but when.
But struggle makes the payoff sweeter. The more rewarding accomplishments are always the ones that were harder to achieve. If Tiger eventually passes Nicklaus, after the scandal, the injuries and the years of doubt, the feat will be that much more gratifying.
I've argued in favor of Tiger's greatness in previous columns (check the archives, please). I want him to win 19-plus majors just like I want LeBron James to win seven NBA titles. I want dominant players to tie and break records. It allows me to put their careers in perspective and measure them against the all-time greats (some of whom I wasn't afforded the privilege of watching).
In music, the bridge is the buildup before the chorus. It usually doesn't sound as good as the rest of the song, but it is a necessary element: it builds tension. It makes your ear long for the chorus, and when the chorus finally arrives, the payoff is sweeter because of the bridge.
Tiger is definitely dragging out the bridge now. He's holding a dissonant note. But if he can make it to the chorus, win that 19th major, it will be as transcendent as 'Hallelujah.' The 19th will be his masterpiece, filled with memorable highs and unexpected turns. It will be his 'A Day in the Life.'