With the azaleas in bloom and green jackets on full display, The Masters Golf Tournament gets underway this week in Augusta, Georgia. While most of the traditions of the golf tournament billed as "A Tradition Unlike Any Other" will be gracing our television sets, there will be one notable absence this year --- Tiger Woods.
For the first time since he was in high school some twenty years ago, Woods will not be teeing it up at golf's grandest stage. Instead, he will be at home recovering from back surgery, the latest in a string of setbacks that have occurred since Tiger last won a major tournament in 2008.
It is almost inconceivable that Woods has not won a major in nearly six years. After all, he had become the most famous athlete in the world. He was a once in a generation type player who completely revolutionized the way that professional golfers are watched, paid, and play the game. He was the Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan of his sport. Yet, it all seemingly came crashing down on him both figuratively and literally when his car slammed into a tree in November 2009 after an incident at his home with his then-wife.
Most of you know the story from there. It soon came to light that Tiger had not only been unfaithful in his marriage, but had been so in epic proportions. Woman after woman came forward stating that they had relations with him. Some reports indicate that there were well over 100 women. Tiger checked into an addiction clinic and ultimately made several other changes in his life, including firing his coach and caddie.
Since that time, Woods has suffered numerous injuries, including those to his knee, Achilles, wrist, and back. He has failed to win a single major tournament. He has withdrawn from several other tournaments for various reasons. He has missed cuts in tournaments, something almost unheard of for him. And perhaps most shockingly, he has been accused of multiple rules violations, with some in the media and others going so far as to call him a cheater (on the golf course, not just in his marriage). Now, he has undergone back surgery and is missing the tournament that means the most to him for the first time in his career.
All of this has led some people to state that God is punishing Tiger Woods for his infidelity and sexual escapades. While Tiger has certainly seemed to have quite a negative run of fortune in many ways, I would dispute that God is punishing Tiger for his behavior.
First, Tiger was actually winning and wildly successful professionally when he was carrying on the way that he was. Just because we didn't know about his actions until November 2009 doesn't mean that God didn't know until then. God knew all along.
Second, Tiger is still the number one ranked golfer in the world.
And third, and most importantly, I don't believe that God is a merciless God who looks to inflict harm after harm upon us because of our transgressions. Just as we are sometimes disappointed with the actions of our own children, God is sometimes disappointed in our actions. But, at the same time, just as we would never inflict harm after harm upon our own children just because they disappoint us, God too acts in that manner. He continues to watch over us, want the best for us, and love us no matter how badly we may behave.
Tiger Woods is no different than the rest of us. We all have ups and downs in our lives. We all face health issues at some point. We all make our fair share of mistakes. Despite that, God loves us.
So, I feel confident in saying that whatever Tiger Woods has had to battle, it isn't because God is punishing him. It's because he is human.