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We're almost there, friends, almost back to the point where we can talk about "Tiger's game" and mean golf, not his ways with the ladies. Just over a week from now, Tiger Woods will take his first swing in a tournament since The Events of Nov. 27, and you can bet that much of the civilized world will be watching.
Question is, how much of the world will be rooting for him?
Certainly, much of the world is suffering from Tiger Fatigue. We get it — he cheated, he's sorry, can we move on? And time heals all perceived wounds; Tiger had a 34 percent favorable rating in mid-December, but that total has risen to 43 percent, according to a poll taken in recent days by Opinion Research Corporation. That's a nice bump, but it's worth remembering that two years ago, Woods' favorability rating was up around 83 percent.
Interestingly, 59 percent of the respondents in the recent poll want to see Tiger win the Masters, meaning that there are people who have an unfavorable rating of him but still want to see him snag another green jacket. Another 20 percent will be actively rooting against him. (The final 21 percent, presumably, just do not care anymore and will jab golf tees into their ears if they have to hear any more about Tiger freakin' Woods.)
We can easily come up with reasons to root for Tiger — he deserves a second chance, it's a private matter, et cetera — but there are also some fairly compelling reasons to root against Tiger, too. The man who was a symbol and example for so many had repeatedly morally transgressed — his words — and yet, as the New York Times' Robert Wright notes, to be paying no long-lasting price. Tiger was long a symbol of determination in the face of challenge, and now Wright believes he can serve as a symbol of a different sort:
He has turned his life into a real-life morality play, and maybe it would be better for his young fans if his story ended badly — if, having shown no real atonement, he was forced to pay a steeper price: never breaking Nicklaus’s record. That would be a lesson to remember.
Whether you think Woods' moral failings are our business — even as a cautionary tale — you can't argue the fact that with one Masters win, the past four months will be immediately consigned to history. A few more victories, and this whole saga will be nothing more than a bump in the road for Woods, a remember-when that has no effect on his play in 2011, 2012 and beyond.
And it all starts next week. So now, it's your turn. Cast your vote below.
- Tiger Woods