Orin Starn, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, watched the Masters Tournament along with the rest of the world on April 14 and offers his thoughts on Tiger’s victory here. His 2011 book The Passion of Tiger Woods brought an anthropologist’s perspective to the scandals and struggles that made yesterday’s victory such a triumph.
It was an amazing moment in America sports history yesterday. Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament, one of golf’s four major championships, capping a remarkable comeback from deep troubles on and off the course. Most pundits had written off the great champion after an ugly divorce, four back surgeries, and, less than two years ago, an arrest for driving under the influence of pain-killers. His vacant mug shot eyes were those of a man who seemed to have lost his way altogether.
That Woods would rise again felt almost foreordained and even biblical in its way. He’d once been acclaimed as golf’s black messiah, redeeming the sport from its whites-only past, and becoming its greatest player with an astonishing knack for drama and the clutch shot. Then, after self-destructive serial cheating destroyed his marriage, Woods was crucified to the cross of public opinion and media frenzy. He resurrected his career with a public apology and double fusion back operation. Now, with his Masters win, Woods has been transubstantiated, rising into celestial new heights of fan adoration at least among the golfing public. At 43, balding, having sinned and suffered so much, Woods is more human than he had been as an invincible young superstar. His powers of concentration and genius skill remain altogether otherworldly beyond even the imagination of us mortal weekend players.
I could not help shedding a few tears as Woods raised his arms in triumph on the 18th green yesterday. Anyone of a certain age who has learned how hard life can be could identify with his struggle and take pleasure in his victory. There is always new drama in the Woods story, and perhaps he will now go on to reach his childhood goal of overtaking Jack Nicklaus for the most major tournament titles. It felt yesterday, as the thunderstorms rolled across Georgia, that this Masters victory will remain as the greatest moment of all in his extraordinary story.