Martin Dempster: Let's all toast Tiger Woods as he enters World Golf Hall of Fame
If you really love golf, then stop what you are doing at some point today and either raise a glass to Tiger Woods or think about him for a few minutes.
It’s today, after all, that the man destined to be there from the first time he picked up a golf club is being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Woods is in the ‘Class of 2022’ along with former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, three-time US Women’s Open winner Susie Maxwell Berning and visionary golf course architect/developer Marion Hollins.
With all due respect to the others, this glitzy golf gathering will be dominated by Woods and rightly so.
He’s being introduced by his daughter, Sam, who, until now, has taken a back seat to her brother, Charlie, when it has come to anything to do with golf.
That in itself will be a touching moment for Woods and, quite frankly, there couldn’t be a better time for Woods to be entering the sport’s Hall of Fame.
He’s been in some dark places over the years, notably after his fall from grace following marital infidelity, but not at the moment.
Yes, he’s still recovering from the serious leg injury sustained in a car crash in Los Angeles just over a year ago and remains unsure when he might be back playing competitively again.
That apart, though, it seems as though the 46-year-old is in a better place in life in general than has ever been the case under a constant microscope.
“I think he's at a stage in his life where he probably appreciates all this a little bit more at this point,” said Rory McIlroy, speaking on the eve of the ceremony, as he concurred with that view.
On the strength of performances alone, Woods has been in the World Golf Hall of Fame in an unofficial capacity for a long time.
With 15 majors to his name, he’s second only to Jack Nicklaus while he’s currently tied with Sam Snead on 82 for the most title triumphs on the PGA Tour.
Record after record has been set by Woods in his career and, though his reputation as a human being may have been tarnished over the years, there can be no denying the huge impact he’s had on golf.
“He was going to be a Hall of Famer when he was five years old,” added McIlroy, who first watched Woods in the flesh in a World Golf Championship at Mount Juliet in 2002 and is now honoured to be a close friend.
"He's been an inspiration for so many of us. We - all that are playing here (in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass) this week - have to thank Tiger for where the game is and where the tour is."
From a media perspective, it was always more enjoyable writing about Tiger’s play on the course than what he had to say off it, though that, thankfully, has changed in recent years.
He’s started to lower his shield and what a brilliant sight it has been seeing him team up with son Charlie, who has all his old man’s golfing traits including raw talent, in the PNC Championship.
Take a bow tonight, Tiger Eldrick Woods, as you deserve it.
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