Is This the End?
Try to imagine, if you will, a picture of Tiger Woods, a little more stooped, and a little more gray, processing slowly along in an academic procession dressed in full doctoral regalia. Go ahead, just try to imagine it. Imagine him trudging to the podium to speak to the young professors and students as an “Emeritus.” Got it yet?
We’ve let our imaginations hang out there, waiting for fate to throw the switch and set Tiger Woods back on his original course. We know he’s getting on a bit, but he’s not ancient. He’s just not playing well and doesn’t feel good – that’s all. But come on now, he’s not an “Emeritus,” not yet. And as for our imaginations, the PGA doesn’t seem as willing this year to play along. Woods has been dropped from the elite list of tour players on the website. Rory, Jordan, and Phil are all there, but no more Tiger – he’s gone Emeritus, apparently. Incidentally, the 27 year-old Jason Day is not on the list, despite being #1 in the world. The top players were chosen by fans, and Day must not be hitting the right buttons. The PGA says it’s not a knock on Day, but it sure looks like a knock on the PGA to me. He’s not old enough for Emeritus, but he should at least be given tenure.
The term Emeritus generally applies to a retired professor or preacher, but there’s a place for it in other walks of life as well. Arnie, Jack, and Gary have all been offered Emeritus status, even though they don’t play the tour anymore. If Tiger were to quit today, with his record, he’d surely be offered a spot in the pantheon of past greats. The word suggests that after retirement, an Emeritus is remembered with distinction as having been good at his or her job. Incidentally, in Latin, the word means “veteran soldier,” and with what Tiger’s gone through in the past few years, it fits.
So, we’ve watched the injuries mount up, the yips within thirty yards. We’ve watched a bunch of missed cuts, several withdrawals, and a whole lot of moaning and “woe is me-ing.” Now he tells us that it might take another 12 months before we see him again, and even then, who knows what we’ll see? Should Tiger slip out quietly now and accept his doctoral robes for the next academic conference, or should he strut and fret one or two more hours upon the stage, and risk going out as just a hard-luck case with a rotten attitude? I don’t know, he’s Tiger. Maybe he can pull them both off.
What do you suppose Tiger would do with a year off? How would he hold it together if some medical person tells him to rest, and not play golf? Is he the type who can sit on a yacht for three months off the Greek coast sipping martinis, sit at the feet of a guru in the Himalayas, or go on a worldwide goodwill tour for the poor and oppressed? My inner critic screams, “Not very likely!” That sounds far too “Emeritus” for a guy like that, because whatever else the word means, it also means that you’re done. I’m not sure Tiger’s ego is ready to take off the training wheels of his career and survive alone.
Perhaps he’ll have a magical year of recuperation, spurred on by the PGA’s rejection. Competitive golf means you have to succeed right now, and often, but if one takes the path of the Emeritus, you don’t have to be great anymore. You only have to have been great once. I don’t know which path Tiger will choose, or how it will go, but it’s sure going to be a sad sight if he ends up hitting the ceremonial drive at the Masters while he should still be playing in it.