Point of No Return: Grit, experience lead Tiger to unlikely title

We strive to be better people, right?

Maybe we have different ideas of what that actually means, but all of us have an active interest in making our lives better, right? Maybe we want to improve our personal financial situations. Or focus on being better parents. Or to work harder at our jobs. Or, maybe, we just want to try to do one more nice thing a day for other people than we were doing before. 

There just has to be something — some reason we all make the decision to get out of bed in the morning and take on a world that is unquestionably unforgiving and relentless. You know who makes that decision? Suckers. That’s who.

Or dreamers. People who believe in their hearts that they are going to find themselves in a better place today than they did yesterday. These are the people who make plans, set goals and put their plans into action so they can be the best they can be. They put on a smile when it might take a little extra effort, they put on a podcast that teaches them a little extra about what they feel they need to know and they just keep on plugging along, knowing that if they just keep working at something... well, anything is possible.

I like to think that most of us fall into this category, truth be told. Oh, we have seen what life does to people. We’ve watched horrible things happen to the best people we know, and seen nothing but great fortune and luck rain down on the kind of people that we’d like to see all kinds of other things rain down upon. 

Admit it. You were just thinking of some pretty gross stuff raining down on some people you really don’t like, weren’t you?

We dream. We work. We plan. We learn. We try. We do whatever we can, whenever we can sneak it into our frantic lives, just because we know we have a better chance of getting where we want to go in life if we just keep trying. Sure, we know in our hearts that there are no guarantees. Most of us have eaten enough humble pie over the year to cause any sane human being to just roll up into the fetal position and wish the world away.

But we just keep trying. Mostly because quitting stinks. It’s ingrained in our souls that trying is better than not trying. We can disagree on zillions of other things in life — and we do disagree on nearly everything — but we all know that trying is better than not trying.

Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno once said, “Today, you’ve got a decision to make. You’re gonna get better or you’re gonna get worse, but you’re not gonna stay the same. Which will it be?”

I want to get better. And I’m guessing you want to get better. And we all want our kids to get better. And, once again, we know that sometimes simply trying is not enough. But digging deep and overcoming obstacles is a concept that I believe we can all get our heads around and appreciate. Perseverence is one of the few traits that nearly all of us can embrace, and perhaps the only thing we root for more than one improving his or her life by hard work is when someone crashes hard to personal depths, and then ascends back to the top through sheer will.

Which brings me to Tiger Woods.

Golf fan or not, chances are you aware that Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters tournament last Sunday — his first “Major” championship since he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and his first Masters title since 2005. Considering that he had won 14 Majors between 1997 and 2008, the drought for Tiger had both generated some fodder for those happy to see him not succeed (because, well, people stink about that kind of stuff), and genuine disbelief that he’d ever find himself hoisting one of the prestigous Major trophies again.

I was admittedly one of those who doubted Tiger would ever reach that height again.

Between his very-public divorce, several substantial surgeries, the typical realities of advancing age and a general sense that Tiger would never be the same “Tiger” again, I was skeptical that we’d ever see Tiger be able to beat out this wave of young golfers and overcome his own challenges. It just didn’t really seem feasible, and though I was never a giant Tiger fan, it was impossible to ignore his remarkable talent and unrelenting drive when he was on top of his game. The thought of him never reaching that level again was something I almost mourned — the prospect of greatness lost forever to the ravages of time.

But we got to see something new with this version of Tiger. When he won his first Masters in 1997, it felt like a coronation — the expected rise to the top of a golfing prodigy. When he smartly laid up on 18 on Sunday, chipped up and casually two-putted for the win, it felt more like the end of a Disney movie. The crafty veteran summoned his knowledge, grit and experience to come out on top.

I think so many people appreciated this title because we know he earned his way back through hard work. I know I did.