Tiger Woods, now with his divorce finalized, has returned to his legendary form as he shot his best round at the PGA’s Barclays golf tournament in New Jersey. Woods shot a 65, which left him six shots under par and tied with Vaughn Taylor for the tournament lead. Woods hit 13 of a possible 14 fairways off the tee, in regulation made 15 of a possible 18 greens and only needed to putt the ball 27 times. Subjectively speaking, the Tiger Woods of old was back.
After the trauma and drama of his messy divorce from former Swedish model Elin Nordegren (finalized on Monday), Woods has come back with a vengeance to try to climb back atop the lofty perch he resided pm before his marital problems began. His performance Thursday at the Barclays was shocking considering how pathetic, by his standards, he has looked so far this season, especially at the Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.
No one can ever predict how athletes will respond to a major distraction. Some can’t concentrate the way they would like, such as Woods. Others, such as Brett Farve, who played a Monday Night Football game against the Oakland Raiders the day after his father died in 2003, seem to be inspired to play their best when all logic would have one believe they shouldn’t have played so well.
Another example, perhaps better suited for comparison to Woods, came when Cynthia Cooper of the WNBA’s Houston Comets played as well as she had played in her entire career during the 1999 season, despite the fact that her good friend and teammate Kim Perrot became terminally ill with cancer. This goes to show that no one can predict how athletes will react to a distraction, particularly a lingering distraction such as Woods’ and Cooper’s.
What’s interesting is that the jury is still out on Woods’ mental toughness, at least his ability to concentrate on golf and not on off-the-course distractions. It was as if he turned on a light switch and returned to being superhuman “Tiger,” after becoming some guy named Eldrick (his real name). What if Woods has another major distraction? Will that affect the way he plays? Perhaps the question has been answered, given that his game barely slipped, if at all, when his father passed away a few years ago.
Most athletes, even if their play slips, almost always return to their old level of play after a major distraction. It seems as if Woods will be okay, especially since he has immediately made a stunningly positive statement following the finalizing of his divorce. But only time will tell if he can sustain it or overcome any other inevitable distractions.