By Benjamin Block
Vulnerability, increasing concessions to Father Time and a long, drawn-out demotion over the last seven years from leading man to supporting role now inhabit the golf game of a 40-year-old Tiger Woods. But his brand strength just keeps evolving.
The name — Woods — still stretches far and wide, as surely as a golfer’s shadow on the 18th green as the sun descends.
After nearly two years in development, the 14-time major champion announced earlier this week that he and his team have rebranded the familiar “TW” logo as “TGR.”
The new logo looks like three separate triangle pillars — signifying mindset, method and mastery, displayed in a way that seemingly illustrates a negative space “W.” TGR will be a centralized, parent brand that unites his current businesses and future endeavors, but it’s all part of a bigger picture that Woods has dubbed “Chapter 2.”
And if that’s how Woods is describing this next part of his life, then the first “chapter” definitely didn’t disappoint. It had everything, including championships, missteps, drama, intrigue, celebrity, mystery, and family. It really only lacked one element — the comeback. But perhaps the world’s current 802nd-ranked golfer is saving that for the next chapter?
Chapter 2 Begins
Woods navigated the polished marble terrain and moneyed elite inside the iconic New York Public Library on Thursday evening to commemorate the 20th year of the Tiger Woods Foundation.
The gala was supposed to piggyback on Woods’ return to professional tournament golf after a 14-month absence, but he withdrew days after he had committed to last week’s Safeway Open in California, delaying his highly anticipated return.
So rather than having to deal with questions about his return to golf, or his back, or the tough field of players and course difficulty he faced, the evening allowed for a redefined, off-the-course Tiger to gush over the success and evolution of his foundation.
His foundation has allowed kids a safe place to explore their passions, develop self-worth and advocate for the transformative power of education since 1996.
“I understand what it feels like to have to do an after-school program,” Woods explained to CBS, reflecting on how his own educational experience growing up factored into his motivation to create the foundation.
As he further described, the genesis behind his vision was largely connected to a bad stutter and speech impediment that he had as a kid. The three years he spent at an after-school program learning how to empower himself through speech and education really had a lasting effect.
“So I understand what these kids are going through and what they need, because I could not have done the things that I did without an after-school program,” Woods said.
Accompanying Woods at the event were three of the 149 Earl Woods scholars — Stephanie Navarette, Darryl Robinson and Grace Lee, each of whom shared their own story of overcoming great odds and struggles through the help and guidance of the foundation.
“What we teach them and how we teach them — how to become better students, how to become better people — has allowed them to go ahead and take that leap, and the fact that you’re not going to take that leap alone. You’re going to have us as a family,” Woods explained.
“You can make a positive impact, you can lead people, but you have to take care of yourself first,” is what Woods said he tries to convey to the kids of his foundation, and to his own children.
And for someone who has been criticized in the past for having appeared to show a lack of social activism — a claim hurled at Woods by Hall of Fame football player Jim Brown in 2009 — he pretty candidly voiced his opinion Thursday when asked what he thinks about the social unrest that’s been happening.
“When people start dictating things and start doing things, projecting their own insecurities on other people, I think that’s wrong,” Woods said, not naming anyone in particular.
He added: “They need to look inwardly first, which we tell all of our kids, and how we teach them how to do that is to build their self-esteem, and now they go off and they lead, and then they come back, and so it totally breaks a different cycle now.”
Eventually and inevitably, conversation with Woods drifted toward his other passion in life.
Tiger On Golf
During the speaking engagement portion of the night, which was moderated by CBS’ Charlie Rose, Woods at one point quipped, “The mind hasn’t changed, but the body has,” as Rose would successfully extract some golf talk out of him.
Perhaps this Woods 2.0 version is more candid and vulnerable, or maybe he was basking in the fact that his foundation had brought in about $1.5 million dollars that night, but he let people in, whereas “Chapter 1” Woods probably wouldn’t have.
“My handicap is coming down,” he declared to the room, smirking. Woods has always had the ability to humanize himself, and it delighted the room full of donors that paid upward of $50,000 to see this side of him.
He casually talked about how he’s been shooting in the mid 60s consistently, but acknowledged that it’s one thing to do that for fun and another to do that in tournament situations.
His return to competitive golf will ultimately hinge on a back that has been operated on three times in the past two years.
No longer are the days where he reigns over the golf universe, a reality he understands, or at least gives off that perception. And after momentarily reverting to stringing together cliché responses better suited for a news conference than a gala, he punctuated his athlete jargon by saying that he needs to “do it, just do it,” which drew the laugh of the evening, especially from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who shared the stage with Woods and Rose.
Woods is still very much the consummate showman. And Rose aptly countered right back, saying, “There’s also the question of when,” to which a sly, smiling Woods replied, “In the future.”
Knight interjected, waxing abstractly, saying, “Sports (and music) are really the big parts of American culture that people identify with, so Tiger Woods has almost for 20 years been part of the family, and they want (that) part of the family to come back.”