Tiger Woods is the third most hated athlete in the U.S., according to public opinion polls. But America still loves to root for him.
Winning on and off the golf course is certainly taking care of the problems amassed upon him since 2009.
After a period of time in which Woods struggled to make cuts at several PGA tournaments, Woods won back his demanding demeanor and respect from sports fans.
Last weekend, Woods took a step in the wrong direction when he finished 13 over par, his worst score recorded since 1996 as an amateur, at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club tournament.
More importantly, Woods has not won a major title since 2008, when he defeated Rocco Mediate at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in California.
Woods’ overall performance this year is nowhere as complete and effective as it should be, even with wins at the WGC-Cadillac and Arnold Palmer tournaments in March.
Nevertheless, Woods’ dedication to his craft has made fans believe him in again. Woods has even come back into the spotlight of lucrative endorsement contracts.
After his marital issues drew the public’s attention in November 2009, Woods lost five sponsors and $50 million in annual income, according to Forbes.
Still, in the past 12 months, Woods won six tournaments and earned $78.1 million through endorsements deals, appearance fees and golf course design work.
It is not a surprise that Woods became the world’s best-ranked golfer so soon, or that he signed a nearly $100 million dollar contract with Nike.
In fact, the real surprise of Woods’ comeback includes how the community of golf, and even the sports world, came to appreciate the greatness of his game once again.
After witnessing his dismal public humiliation back in 2009, many fans vowed never to root for Woods, given the unreal circumstances and the way he handled the ordeal.
However, the situation for Woods and the PGA community changed. In the past year, sports fans realized that Woods accelerates the popularity and overall greatness of the game.
We have found ourselves cheering on Woods because of the chance to witness groundbreaking history and the continuation of Woods’ finesse on the course.
In the same way that America forgave LeBron James for the Nike self-proclaimed ads and free agency television shows on ESPN in 2010, they forgave Woods.
Woods’ confidence has risen tremendously on the course since 2009, and even though his performance at the U.S. Open last weekend shattered any hopes of another major, Woods is still in better shape than most PGA golfers.
For sports fans that watched Woods win four majors in 2001 and win The Masters at the age of 21, it’s hard to root against the nostalgia Woods brings to golf.
With 14 major championship wins and 78 PGA tour titles, Woods’ grand smile and mental determination have come back to stay.
And while his excellence might frustrate his foul-mouthed opponents on the green, his presence alone in the final round on Sundays should excite the PGA community.