Ruth: Tiger Woods belongs in Comeback Hall of Fame

Tiger Woods hits from the fifth fairway during the final round of the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Tiger Woods hits from the fifth fairway during the final round of the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Published Sept. 27, 2018

For everyone who has ever failed, or fallen from grace, or faced public humiliation,Tiger Woods proved Sunday there really are second acts in life. It just takes time. Maybe it takes even nearly 10 years to be admired again.

If you play golf, you know how maddening this stupid game can be. If you play golf with a bad back, welcome to the Duffers Sado-masochism Club.

Back in 2009 Woods was at the height of his career. Mmajor championships were a foregone conclusion. He had immense wealth, mansions, yachts, private jets, a beautiful wife, two lovely children and, outwardly at least, a stellar reputation on the PGA tour. Then -literally - it all came crashing down around him.

Then reports surfaced Woods was a serial adulterer. Then came his soon-to-be ex-wife's attack on his car, proving a seven iron has several different uses. Then came the knee and back injuries. And then poof went the lucrative endorsement deals by companies who didn't want their brands associated with a hypocritical athlete.A 2017 DUI arrest hardly helped.

A year ago, after back surgeries,Tiger Woods couldn't walk, couldn't stand, couldn't sit. A four-year-old could have probably beaten him in miniature golf. Woods had gone from the number one player in the world to a hobbled laughing stock.

On Sunday, Woods won his 80th golf tournament, the Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and the $1.6 million that came with it. More impressive were the thousands of golf fans who circled the 18th green, cheering for a 42-year-old man who came back from the brink of personal and professional ruin.

Yes, these people were celebrating Woods' victory. More importantly they were also engaged in an act of forgiveness. And maybe that means more to Woods than the hefty paycheck.

We do schadenfreude really well in this country, reveling in the very public downfalls of prominent people. See? They're just like us - only worse. How comforting.

But we also embrace renewal. There is something inspirational to witness a famous person's struggles to rehabilitate themselves.

Back in the 1950s, Frank Sinatra, once a heart-throb, was regarded as a washed-up crooner reduced to singing novelty tunes for Mitch Miller. But Sinatra came back, winning an Academy Award for best supporting actor in "From Here to Eternity."

Abraham Lincoln lost his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in 1858 and was thought of as pretty well finished as a politician - until 1860.

The comeback hall of fame is filled with those who tumbled, crashed and burned only to mount a return - Richard Nixon, Muhammad Ali, Mark Sanford and Steve Jobs come immediately to mind. Seabiscuit probably rates a mention. So do the Chicago Cubs.

Tiger Woods' rehabilitation in the public eye was probably helped by the fact he never blamed anyone else except himself for his woes. A little humility can go a long way. And Woods had a great deal to be humble about.

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Sunday's win for Woods also underscores the notion we are a fairly tolerant people when it comes to re-accepting a tainted icon once the obligatory trail of shame has been properly trod upon.There is a limit to how much we are willing to pile on when somebody is down.

Tiger Woods never killed anybody. He was never a candidate for the #MeToo movement. Tawdry though they may be, Woods' sexual escapades were consensual. He was simply a really lousy husband. Various reports have pegged his divorce settlement to his ex-spouse, Elin Nordgren, to be in the $100 million range. Such is the price to be paid for arrogance.

In the years since everything unraveled in 2009, a chastened Woods has become a much less arrogant and aloof figure. Losing almost everything -a family, a career, a reputation - can have a sobering effect on one's life. One might argue Woods has learned simply being a world-class athlete doesn't mean all that much if you're still a staring at a world-class dolt in the mirror every morning.

Who knows if Woods will ever conquer another golf tournament, much less a victory in one of the sports four majors, although the odds are we'll see him in the winner's circle again some day.

Golf is a miserable sport. Addicting, too.

But Tiger Woods has just won the most important game of his life. He overcame himself. And that's worth a standing ovation.