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Tiger seeks redemption at US Open

Woods needs to regain success as much as golf needs a champion.

He is now sadly familiar to us from past experience, the arrogant athlete who knew no boundaries and whose public image was a charade. The young man who conducted himself with disregard bordering on contempt for everyone — his family, his fans, his sponsors and, perhaps even, himself.

If there is anything redeeming right now in Tiger — and I am not talking about any manufactured campaign of apology — it is that one senses some genuine shame and regret beyond simply the fact that he was exposed. But if the humbled Tiger is, in fact, nothing more than an act, at least he can still sees the harsh collective judgment reflected in our eyes.

Tiger’s greatest golfing asset was never that he was a straight shooter, at least not off the tee. And if he is particularly wild with his drives this week as he has been of late, Pebble Beach — with its narrow fairways and Pacific punishments for those who stray — could prove an awfully severe challenge. What always distinguished Tiger from all others was how he could recover from dire difficulties along the course. He possessed a seemingly miraculous ability to ignore the unplayable lie or the tree in his path and could not just escape his predicament, but land the ball close to the pin.

Those shots, like any high-wire act, require more than skill. They demand an unwavering self-confidence, an absolute faith in one’s ability and judgment. And those once-deep emotional reservoirs appear to have dried up. As a result, the miracles for Tiger have been in short supply. And in another test of inner resolve, those putts that once found the hole now slide past or lip the cup and, as if the punishment were ordained from above, fail to drop.

Just six months after the public scandal of infidelity and marital wreckage, Tiger’s struggle is a pretty compelling tale. Indeed the battle of a once-great champion to reclaim his greatness and ultimately to attain some kind of public redemption has elements of classic tragedy. And it goes a long way toward explaining why sports remains the greatest of all reality shows.

Tiger’s problems, of course, are hardly his alone. Golf has been struggling without him and desperately needs the Tiger of old or at least a reasonable facsimile to reclaim its audience too. But in terms of urgency, the U.S. Open looms particularly large because right now Tiger needs golf even more than golf needs him.