There are a few moments in sports that just resonate with people for the remainder of their lives.
I will always remember where I was when Magic Johnson announced to the world that he had HIV. I wasn’t more than a toddler at the time. I sat on my living room floor on East 115th Street in Galliano. I didn’t understand the words being said, but I knew they were important. I was able to decipher that through my dad and older brother – both Lakers fans. They sat and stared at our family’s TV set and hung on every word.
I could tell something was wrong.
I could tell something very important was happening.
My family’s favorite athlete – probably of all-time – had just dropped a bombshell on the world.
I’ll remember that day forever.
Likewise, I remember where I was when LSU won their two BCS National Championships and also where I watched the Saints win the Super Bowl.
I remember exactly where I sat inside the Boura household in Larose when I watched Mike Tyson nibble a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear.
Indeed, some moments just last forever.
This past Sunday, while I sat in front of my television set in lovely Cut Off, I had a strange feeling that something equally important was happening right before my eyes.
As I watched Tiger Woods (my sporting hero) limp off the tee box at Doral, citing an Achilles injury, I was left wondering: Would I always remember March 11, 2012 as the last time I watched my hero take the course as a relevant threat in the world of sports?
Time will tell, but even as the most loyal Tiger Woods supporter in the world, I have to admit, the future is cloudier than it is bright.
Forget the negativity, let’s talk about the past.
When he was in his prime, Tiger Woods was the best golfer this world has ever seen.
I’m not talking about longevity, I’m not talking about who has had the best career – those things all still belong to Jack Nicklaus – and likely always will (that’s something I wouldn’t have said three years ago).
I’m just talking about sheer dominance. When Tiger was right and at his peak, there was simply no one better. I care to venture that even Nicklaus would admit that himself.
Woods had it all.
He was arguably the longest player on the tour. His irons were solid. His short game was hands-down the best in the history of the game.
Tiger’s creativity around greens was unheard of. Likewise, his ability to get into and out of trouble was a sight to see.
Once out of trouble, Woods turned pars into birdies and bogeys into pars with a beautiful putting stroke.
And then, of course, there was the “Tiger factor.”
The rest of the PGA Tour feared Tiger when he was in a given tournament.
Once near the top of the leaderboard, that fear turned into downright panic for opposing players.
Grown men buckled, losing their composure – and ultimately their golf swing.
Great players turned into local country club 6 handicappers, bowing in defeat at the feet of the eventual champion.
The rare times he was challenged, Woods showed he was more than capable of fighting his way to the throne.
Seriously, can anyone remember a time that someone went toe-to-toe with Woods during his prime years and actually lived to tell about it?
The guy was beyond clutch. He was truly the most dominant athlete in the world.
And then, Nov. 27, 2009 happened.
That’s the night Woods’ story took a spiraling turn for the worse. That’s the infamous night when a car struck a tree and foreign objects swung by the golfer’s ex-wife reportedly struck Tiger’s face.
That’s the night everything changed.
Allegations of adultery turned into admissions of guilt. Once the golden boy of the entire sporting world, Tiger Woods was now a bad boy catapulted into every punch line across the globe.
He took a sabbatical from the game after being shamed.
He promised that upon his return, he’d be better than ever before – both on and off the course.
Since he’s returned from that sabbatical, he’s actually been worse.
Tiger Woods no longer hits the ball as far as he used to.
His shots aren’t as straight. His irons aren’t as precise.
His short game is still great, but it’s still not quite what it once was.
The brilliant putting? It’s no longer the best in the business.
The “Tiger factor?” The fear in the eyes of the other players? That’s gone too. Young stallions like new No. 1-ranked player Rory McIlroy seem more than poised enough to withstand the charge of the battle-scarred Tiger.
Physically, Woods is a mess. He’s had multiple surgeries on his knees and he just doesn’t look as imposing as he once did.
Mentally, it’s also easy to question Woods. Sure, the guy is obviously mentally tough. But how can one man go through all of that adversity in just more than 24 months and not be a little more fragile in the head?
The beauty of this situation as a Tiger fan is that he still has time. The dude is just 36-years-old. That’s still merely a teenager in golf years. He has a good 10 years of golf left in him where he could compete at a high level.
Heck, the golfer’s recent injury doesn’t even seem to be severe and Tiger says he’s going to return to action tomorrow.
But the clock is ticking and things seem to be getting worse before they get any better.
Even the most loyal Tiger fan on the planet is beginning to have doubts about Woods breaking Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.
That same loyal Tiger fan is beginning to have an inkling that he’ll remember the day he saw his hero limp off the course in pain – the last time Woods was a genuine threat in the world of mainstream athletics.