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KSR Voices: I Am Tiger Woods

Our world has no shortage of great athletes, but occasionally we are graced with transcendence. By transcendent, I mean unsurpassed.

So dominant, the entire sport changes to account for this newfound supremacy. So captivating, an entire culture breaks from normal routines to behold the supremacy. So inspiring, an entire generation dreams of one day emulating the supremacy.

We will always have sports, but sometimes, on those rare blessed occasions, we are given transcendence. 

In my opinion, when it comes to transcendence, Tiger Woods transcends them all.

Simply put, he’s the best to ever play the game of golf, and yes that includes Jack Nicklaus. Jack was incredible, but he wasn’t Tiger Woods. Jack won tournaments; Tiger dominated tournaments. Jack impressed his contemporaries; Tiger terrified his contemporaries. Augusta was no match for Jack’s game; Augusta had to literally remake the course to “Tiger Proof” itself against Tiger’s game.

And the only thing Jack still has on Tiger (18 majors) now, after Tiger won number 15 this weekend, feels precarious once again. In fact, after Tiger’s victory on Sunday, Nicklaus was asked if he was still confident his record would stand. His response? “(Tiger’s) got me shaking in my boots”

Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer to ever play the game, and nobody is going to convince me otherwise.

But as everyone knows, the story of Tiger Woods goes much further. Adding to the mystique of Tiger’s transcendence is Tiger’s redemption. It might seem impossible that one figure could simultaneously be the greatest player in the history of the game as well as the most unlikely comeback in the history of the game, but with Sunday’s victory, Tiger is now both.

His downfall has been documented ad nauseum and not worth repeating in detail here. In summation, Tiger was a deeply troubled soul trying to fill the void with reprehensible sexual exploits that I personally and vehemently condemn. Nobody can sustain the life Tiger was leading, which is why it all came crashing down. And I literally mean crash. On November 27, 2009, Tiger’s wife Elin Nordegen uncovered Tiger’s habitual betrayal and infidelity. She was understandably traumatized and furious, and Tiger fled. Speeding out of his driveway, he lost control of his SUV and crashed into a neighbor’s tree.

Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian’s amazing biography Tiger Woods describe that moment with poignant authenticity: “As Woods lay unconscious on the road at 2:25 a.m. on November 27, 2009, blood on his teeth and lips, he finally appeared as he truly was—a vulnerable, fragile, deeply wounded person. In shock, Elin tended to the man who had broken her heart.”

The mystique was fully demystified for all the world to see, but it would prove only the beginning. As his life unraveled so did his golf game. In short, he lost it all and had to start over. Surgery after surgery to repair a body worn down by his notoriously aggressive swing and insane practice regime.

One could argue his fight to get back was even more difficult than the fight to get there in the first place. Merely two years ago he couldn’t even attend the Augusta’s champion’s dinner without a nerve blocker to stunt the pain. Shortly thereafter, he required spinal fusion surgery, and after a grueling recovery, he finally got to pick up a club again. His first drive carried 90 yards.

And yet there we were this past weekend, less than two years after a 90-yard drive, glued to our televisions watching Tiger defeat the greatest golfers on the greatest stage.

To me, that victory was more significant than any of his other major championships. Why? Because the only thing greater than transcendence is redemption. You see, transcendence is possible for only few, but redemption is available to us all. 

At the beginning of Tiger’s rise to dominance, Nike went all in on the Tiger brand, releasing its iconic commercial and famous slogan: I am Tiger Woods. The commercial featured boys and girls of all ages and ethnicities hitting golf shots with the same creed on their lips, “I am Tiger Woods.” The marketing was genius. Instead of a generation on basketball courts dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan, why not on the golf course dreaming of being the next Tiger Woods? And in many ways it worked, inspiring a generation of golfing excellence the game had never seen before.

But let’s be honest, the slogan was as hopeless as it was inspiring, for there will never be another Tiger Woods. I’m not Tiger Woods. You’re not Tiger Woods. Nobody but Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods, which is why Tiger Woods is transcendent.

And yet ironically, the Nike campaign has proven true in the most unforeseen way. Not one person reading this can say I am Tiger Woods the golfer, but every single person reading this can say I am Tiger Woods in need of redemption.

I found it very fitting that Tiger’s redemptive victory took place on Palm Sunday this year. For those unfamiliar with the Christian tradition Palm Sunday is the beginning of our most sacred week, commonly referred to as Holy Week. What is Holy Week all about? The audacious hope that redemption is possible. The hope that I’m never too far gone, that my failures are never beyond forgiveness, indeed, that my mess is never beyond redemption.

It is during this week that we follow the journey of Jesus in his final days, and what we discover is that Jesus is to religion what Tiger is to golf—an utterly unique and transcendent religious figure. While most religions tell you how to redeem yourself; Jesus accomplishes redemption on our behalf. On Friday he is crucified and on Sunday he rises, and both his death and resurrection open redemption to the world. In his death I am offered forgiveness for what I have done, in his resurrection I am offered freedom for a new life to live.

The truth is, I am Tiger Woods. Not the golfer. Nobody is. I am Tiger Woods the failure. Tiger Woods the sinner. Tiger Woods the broken desperate man in need of redemption. The redemption I have found, and the redemption I pray you find, is the redemption offered in Jesus.

Tiger Woods is my golf hero. Jesus Christ is my redemption hero.

Robert Cunningham is the Senior Pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church and Head of School at Trinity Christian Academy. Follow him on twitter at @tcpcrobert and submit any comments or questions to [email protected]

Article written by Robert Cunningham

18 Comments for KSR Voices: I Am Tiger Woods

  1. mcayce
    6:37 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    I like Tiger and he has been dominant for most of his career But his off course activities have lowered him a notch for me. Not the greatest ever

    • Ridge Runner
      6:45 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

      But I think that is what connects him to many as well albeit not intended of course. It shows he’s not invincible and the mistakes made shows he’s human. Not condoning as well, but just mentioning that is a factor.

    • J. Did
      7:01 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

      Good points. When he was, he wasn’t. When he wasn’t, he was. Now, he’s gone through what most of us can only dream of, or read about….or wished. Without the drama. He has been through an incredible journey. I’m sure he’d say he doesn’t wish that on anyone. I’d agree. Yet – he’s had a ton of success with challenges. And- he’s overcome many – but they came at an huge price. Which the winnings and accolades may or may not ever assuage.

  2. CahillsCrossingNT
    6:38 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    Is there a point to all of this? I learned nothing, and I know more about golf than anyone I know. Plus it’s KSR, not the Tiger Woods channel.

    • henderblue
      8:03 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

      I’m pretty sure the point to all this, according to the writer, is that you, and I, and all of us need to find redemption in Jesus Christ. And that Tiger Woods is his golf hero.

  3. Ridge Runner
    6:43 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    I know living here in Augusta, the town itself is captivated by him. Store Posters, small talk from locals, etc.. He has this aura about him obviously but to implant himself into a relatively small southern town rich in golf lore is quite amazing on a few levels.

    • Ridge Runner
      6:59 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

      In fact, the 1997 win where he obliterated the competition by (I think 12 strokes) is a reoccurring topic of old golf fans here in Augusta still today. Many haven’t picked up their lower jaw from amazement when that happened over 20 years ago. They identify that as unheard of still. It is a story that resonates all the time when you bring up the Masters here.

  4. dcarlinf1
    6:49 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    I am thrilled for tiger and I don’t care about his personal issues he battled. He is the greatest there is in golf. But this post totally omitted his desire to do Army Ranger type stuff because of his dad being in the green beret. That is where his injuries most likely came from. Not golf practice. Read the massive piece done by sports illustrated a few years back. Huge part of his story.

    • BlueInVA
      5:03 am April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Not sure if you are old enough to remember Jack playing. I am. His last Masters win in ‘86 was transcendent. I was 18. When Jack moved into contention on Sunday people started hearing about it and drove home to watch it. I did. He shot a back nine of 30! A freaking 30 to win.

      Jack is Ali, Tiger is Mike Tyson. Jack the greatest ever, Tiger the most dominant stretch ever.

      As a teenager I would only watch golf if Jack was contending at a major. Same now for Tiger.

    • dcarlinf1
      8:34 am April 17, 2019 Permalink

      Tiger is Ali

  5. banderson_louky
    7:06 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink


  6. JATR4
    7:38 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    Jack has 18 majors, 19 seconds and 9 third place finishes in majors. Tiger not even close!

    • jmac1962
      8:19 am April 17, 2019 Permalink


    • dcarlinf1
      8:35 am April 17, 2019 Permalink

      The field was not as deep when Jack played. Not even close.

  7. Tango98
    8:02 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    Tiger Woods has 15 major wins, 6 seconds, 4 third place and an admitted 120 mistresses. I think we all know who the real winner is…..

  8. tfordstyle
    8:24 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    My man Robert is my favorite contributor on Ksr, but way off here. People get so excited in the moments of greatness that memory loss sets in. (see the terrible lebron goat arguments for details) Stats matter, and he doesn’t have them. The same people who argue he would have the most majors if he didn’t lose his way for a few years also argue he’s a great guy for taking full responsibility for his mistakes. No excuses, folks. When/If he catches the true GOAT, we’ll talk again 😉

    • wyatts1
      10:21 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

      Who cares!! It’s freaking GOLF!! Not even remotely related to UK sport’s. Hate to point out the obvious but if he was white I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t had received half of the media attention that he’s received.

  9. USMC Cat
    10:05 pm April 16, 2019 Permalink

    I believe he’s the greatest, most skilled to ever play the game. But Jack had the greatest career. But it’s a silly argument because it was a different game then. it’s like comparing Lebron to Bill Russell or something. They are generational players. The very best of their time.