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masters memory Tiger Woods' redemptive Augusta glory and his son's loving embrace makes future minus golf less raw


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Tiger Woods of the United States and son Charlie Woods fist bump in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods of the United States and son Charlie Woods fist bump in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods of the United States and son Charlie Woods fist bump in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

As his 4x4 somersaulted and buckled in the Californian scrub, it is comforting to imagine Tiger Woods transported to a subconscious safehouse at another momentous fork in the road of his life.

Even as his right leg snapped like matchwood, was it, in his mind's eye, again walking on water above Rae's Creek to the embrace of his young son?

As the fairways of his golfing future dissolved with grim finality in the shattered lens of his rear-view mirror, did a euphoric 22-month old image from Augusta fill the void?

The one where The Tiger is red-shirted and reborn as the triumphant, untouchable Caesar of Amen Corner.

And where this brilliant, damaged man, his journey through life propelled by a pursuit of Jack Nicklaus that was, in fact, a quest for the affection of a despotic father, softens at the sight of ten-year-old, Charlie, waiting behind the 18th green.

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Woods broke his leg in the smash.

Woods broke his leg in the smash.

Woods broke his leg in the smash.

With the virtual certainty that the curtain fell for his days on golfing Broadway as his car trampolined off Hawthorne Boulevard on Tuesday morning, that memory might prove to be Tiger's vaccine against despair.

And his firewall against a kind of wretched grief.

That imperishable April 2019 afternoon, the azaleas glistening beneath a coral Georgian sun, the trauma of Tiger's childhood-denied seemed to finally ebb.

A weight fell from sculpted shoulders as Woods located the treasure he had been pursuing since Earl Woods thrust a golf club into his two-year-old hand and commanded him to be bigger than Jesus Christ - love between a father and son.

The life-affirming beauty of that Masters Sunday was sourced not only in the electrifying vision of Woods, at 43, making the impossible journey across an 11-year major chasm, to reseize the golfing universe.

An extra dimension came with the understanding that a figure who had endured such a complex relationship with his father, whose own headline-grabbing infidelities had sundered his second family, had found a kind of peace.

That moment of ecstatic solace arrived courtesy of the simple, complex, mind-bending gift of fatherhood.

Tiger's smile sun-dappled the planet, humanity long concealed behind padlocked doors was opened to the world as he caught sight of Charlie, a mini-me in scarlet Nike top and baseball cap (peak self-consciously tilted backward).

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Workers remove Woods’ smashed vehicle.

Workers remove Woods’ smashed vehicle.

Workers remove Woods’ smashed vehicle.

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The planet's most famous athlete held his son in an embrace that was strong and unyielding and which, it seemed, might last as long as the glorious round he had just completed.

Briefly, it was the all-conquering forty-something who resembled the dependent in the relationship as he set free a dam-burst of emotion, a wound held in for decades now unleashed in an uncontrollable flood.

In that moment Tiger's life of towering achievement seemed to find the crowning contentment that not even the 14 major titles won before that week or the billion dollars banked, had come close to securing.

The emotion was so uranium-enriched and authentic, golf's Garden of Eden so drenched in fulfilment, the wonder was that old Rae's Creek didn't swell up and burst its banks.

Like delirious birdsong, redemption chirped and hummed across the Georgian sky.

In kindling and igniting the most unforgettable fire, The Tiger made the deepest connection with his audience.

And just maybe, he liberated the part of his childhood incarcerated by his father's monumental cruelty in seeing his son entirely as the source material for his vicarious thrills.

In the two years since that triumph, the rest of the professional field have noticed a marked change in Tiger.

A softening, if not in his competitive spirit, then in the philosophical mindset that the co-ordinates of the universe could be measured only in what he referred to in robotic shorthand as 'Ws'.

Tiger visibly loosened and uncoiled, the elusive, slightly forbidding titan of the fairways inviting Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy into his world.

It was as if through the unabashed connection with Charlie he revealed at Augusta he was able to, at last, forge the kind of friendships his authoritarian father frowned upon as an obstacle to his son meeting his golfing destiny.

If it sounds profound, it is a story as old as life.

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The scale of what happened is laid bare after the accident.

The scale of what happened is laid bare after the accident.

The scale of what happened is laid bare after the accident.

Those who read George Eliot's masterpiece, Silas Marner, will recall how the eponymous hero of the novel was lured away from his soulless, one-dimensional life counting the coins he had hoarded by a chance encounter with a child.

As Marner counted his gold, so Tiger counted his titles: 82 wins, 683 weeks as world No 1, a flawless killing-machine.

If it was epic and invigorating, too often there appeared a gaping emptiness where a soul should reside. Tiger was a more programmed hard-drive than human, a remorseless, ice-cold, golfing Terminator.

It is hard to imagine how that pre-2019 Augusta version might cope without having Nicklaus and his 18 majors in his cross hairs.

But that is not the Tiger of today.

No, the blood coursing through his veins was warmer, he was the vulnerable, flesh-and-blood figure who introduced himself 22 months ago.

Tiger's unveiling of his warts-and-all self as much as his refusal to give up when the golfing odds were so brutally stacked against him was at the kernel of why that Augusta Sunday touched so many of us in such an elemental way.

It explains why an impossibly wealthy man hitting a dimpled ball, 1.68-inches in diameter, around America's most self-satisfied real estate, placed the watching world in such an ecstatic chokehold.

Here was a defiant prizefighter reaching down to his very marrow, summoning unfathomable courage and grit, climbing off the canvas despite shipping savage blows both from his own hands and the fists of fate, saying he would not be beaten.

Neither by the best golfers in the world, nor by the childhood force fed to him by own father.

Tiger's comeback, his miraculous escape from the penitentiary of his past, was inspiring.

Woods - like so many of us - a stew of human imperfection, reached out and grabbed his second chance at life.

With the primal scream that announced his arrival at the finish line, as his smile sun-dappled the world, as he opened the pages of the so-long sealed book of himself like never before, he caught sight of the view at the rainbow's end.

If he remembers how it felt when he held Charlie tight and exorcised so many ghosts, then the adjustment to life beyond the path Earl Woods compelled him to walk mightn't seem so terrifying.

Even with both his leg and ambitions of overtaking Nicklaus crushed, the future without golf might be more beautiful than he ever dared to imagine.

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