Tiger Woods latest slide at the U.S. Open cemented a new legacy for the presumed greatest golfer of all time. Five years after winning his last major at the same tournament, on one good leg, Woods has failed to win any of the four major tournaments, which also include the Masters, the British Open and the PGA Championship. It is a story American’s flock to.
Tiger Woods story harkens back to that of Citizen Kane, the 1941 Orson Wells’ classic still widely considered one of the two greatest movies of all time (along with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo). Wells’ story follows a young man, Kane, who becomes prominent through the newspaper industry and gets everything he wants, including women and a mansion, Xanadu. At the height of his prominence, when he is larger than life, Kane is brought down by a number of scandals, which leaves him to die alone in Xanadu, the tomb he constructed.
Tiger’s story is at the tomb stage now. It is no longer a struggle concocted with a mixture of injuries, a playboy image and a collapsed marriage. It is an epic hero story and Tiger’s flaw has become his own ego. It first infected his personal and business life and now it has overrun his golf game at each major tournament. On every other Sunday of the year, Tiger is still dominating, still in the conversation. His mental state is the only explanation for Tiger’s 12 shot defeat this weekend to Justin Rose.
This is not new territory for the American Sports scene. American’s aren’t wrapped up in a trial like OJ Simpson’s without a slight feeling of superiority slipping in. These heroes we create in Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and Lance Armstrong serve as moral compasses when they fall. So where is the place for heroes?
Tiger’s story still dominates the conversation; he has changed the sport to fit his likeness. In the back of every golf fans mind, he is the god that wills a ball on the cusp of the hole from a bunker shot to fall. He is the voice of equality on the greens of Augusta. He’s the only man able to wear a read shirt on Sunday because everyone else who wears one is ripping him off.
As far as storylines go, Phil Mickelson’s collapse was much more present and relevant to Sunday’s U.S. Open. But Phil has never been a threat to anyone; he always comes off as the everyman, devoid of personality, prestige and the drive with his slipups that will keep him out of golf’s premier inner circle of Nicklaus, Palmer and Hogan. By finishing runner up an astonishing sixth time, since 1999, at the U.S. Open, Phil did nothing more than save $400,000 in taxes according to Forbes.
The golf world doesn’t crave Phil. It craves Tiger. Perhaps there is a third act in this well known Citizen Kane American play. We are a nation of second chances and ultimately, heroes. We embrace Lebron James after he attracts the ire of the sports world with his “decision,” we rooted for Phil at the Masters. For Tiger, he can still rewrite the history books and come out on top, return from his dark period. A humbled star is the dream of everyone who’s made a mistake. The first step on Tiger’s road to the ultimate prize of catching Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles is to not let his past mistakes get in his head.