A Tamer Tiger?

by Pete Williams

Today at 1:42 eastern time, the shot that will certainly be heard around the world will be put into play on the first tee of Augusta National amidst what is sure to be a rousing applause.  Tiger Woods makes his long-awaited comeback to the game that he has dominated for over a decade and on its biggest stage, The Masters.  Much has been said as to Tiger’s transgressions and the events that turned Woods’ life and the game of golf upside down but this afternoon the only thing that matters is the little white ball—and it’s about time.  Tiger addressed the media on Monday with an excited reverence for the course, his peers, and the game itself, offering the press and the world their first view of Tiger the player.  He respectfully answered the questions of the press and surprised us all with the unveiling of his supposed new attitude and approach to the game.  It is hard to imagine a Tiger void of angry club throws and seemingly violent exuberance on the greens but according to the world’s number one golfer, that is what we’re going to get this week.

Imagine LeBron James taking the court without flinging a handful of baby powder into the air or Ray Lewis lightly jogging out of the tunnel on Sundays, something just doesn’t feel right.  The same goes for Woods.  If Tiger sinks a forty foot birdie putt as he marches around Amen Corner it is hard to fathom the idea of him not jumping into a passionate fist pump as we have all come to expect from the superstar.  But according to Tiger, exuberant outbursts such as these are behind him as he forges ahead in attempt to overhaul his psyche and foster a deeper “respect for the game”.  That being said, to what degree can we expect a seasoned athlete such as Woods to operate at peak form with what is said to be a new head on his shoulders?  After all, especially in the game of golf, an athlete’s largest asset is what sits between his ears.

Renowned sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray weighed in on the subject.  Dr. Murray is one of the most quoted sports psychologists in the nation and has been closely following the Woods saga, offering some surprising conclusions.  “The most prominent athletes perform best under the most scrutiny and on the biggest stage” says Dr. Murray, a supposition that suggests that we should expect Tiger at the top of the leader board regardless of his stoic poise or lack thereof on the course.  Further, the doctor firmly holds that as Tiger moves through the week and the tension builds that we will see nothing but the Tiger we have seen dominate the course since he was barely a college grad, fist pumps and all.  Dr. Murray called Tiger “one of the greatest competitors in sports today” and maintained that an athlete like Woods, who has built his game around his raw emotion, will continue to perform in the only way he know how to, with his emotion worn on his sleeves.

This afternoon, as the world watches, Tiger will attempt to rise from the ashes of his indiscretions as he marches down the course at Augusta for the sixteenth time in his illustrious career.  Most expect him to stumble and fewer expect him to win but one thing we can expect is to see Tiger’s frustrations, humility, and exuberance just as we have for the entirety of his career as golf’s messiah storms back onto the links.

Check out Dr. John F. Murray at www.johnmurray.com

Peter joined the CSP in 2010 and is a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Peter came to CU after a year of playing football at the Division III Colorado College where injury forced him out of football. A passionate sports writer, Peter often speaks of the impact that sports have on the lives of those who play, coach, and watch them. Peter is an avid golfer, skier, and loves fishing in beautiful Colorado.

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