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A Note to Tiger Woods: Victory Isn’t the Only Path to Joy

What you need to know is that there’s another course, one that Arnold Palmer blazed. You do not have to end up at the summit to experience joy. You’d be surprised at how much happiness a meandering journey replete with blind curves, the occasional detour and a blowout or two can bring. Look at Palmer, whose life and legacy have been celebrated this week.


William McGirt, a surprise early leader in his first Masters, with his caddie after holing a bunker shot in the second round.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Did you know that Palmer posted scores in the 80s in 12 of the last 16 competitive rounds that he played at the Masters? The patrons who came to see their hero in the flesh didn’t care. If anything, his struggles made him all the more endearing. Our vulnerabilities are what make us fully human. They are the ties that bond us.

We know your back is giving you fits, but are your expectations also holding you back? Robert Damron, who arrived on the PGA Tour full time the same year as you, in 1997, said he suspects that you don’t like playing like everyone else and that your attitude is, “Why go out and do it anymore if I can’t be perfect?”

Well, we can think of lots of reasons. For starters, to give the fans what they want, which is your presence, not your pre-eminence. Or have you forgotten the chorus of people shouting, “I love you, Tiger!” in Greensboro, N.C., in your last official 72 holes of competitive golf?

There are many more fans where they came from, and they don’t care if you shoot 64 or 84 as long as you smile as you walk by them or sign their programs.

If Palmer came across as someone who never had a bad day, it was because he realized that in life, unlike golf, the rules are pretty simple: The more you reach out to others, the more you get in return.


Arnold Palmer bowing to the gallery at Augusta in 2004. Most of his final competitive rounds at the Masters were in the 80s. It didn’t matter to his fans.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

You think that nothing can match the feeling of walking up to the 18th green on the Sunday of a major with victory assured? You might be surprised how exhilarating it feels to make that walk at the end of the first round of your next tournament with your eyes, ears and heart open.

Julie Elion, a mental coach who works with several players on the PGA Tour, said she spends a good part of her time helping her clients redefine success. If first place is the only goal, it’s a setup for misery because every week produces dozens of losers and only one winner.

At the Farmers Insurance Open in January, before your first official PGA Tour tournament in a year and a half, you said, as you always do, that your goal was to win. But how…

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