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The ‘fairy tale’ redemption of Tiger Woods

At age 43, Tiger Woods is now a Masters winner for the fifth time. On Sunday, the legendary golfer secured his 15th major tournament title, and his first since 2008. Nick Schifrin talks to Armen Keteyian, co-author of a book on Woods, for the story of the golf superstar’s early rise, catastrophic fall and triumphant return to the highest levels of his sport.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Twenty-five years ago, an 18-year-old named Eldrick Woods won his first amateur golf championship.

    Yesterday, the man who was so famous, he later became known by one name, won golf's best known major championship for the fifth time. In between is a tale that our next guest says competes with Shakespeare.

    Nick Schifrin has the story of Tiger Woods' comeback.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Youngest golfer ever to win a major, to win all four majors, to be ranked number one, player of the year more than any other golfer, leading money winner of all time.

    At his peak, Tiger Woods wasn't only considered the greatest golfer in modern history. Many considered him the greatest athlete. He changed the face of golf fundamentally, racially, and socially. At the height of his career, golf got more viewers than basketball and football.

    He was one of the most famous men in the world. And then the crash from grace, dozens of affairs, the mug shot, and injuries that made him predict he would never play again.

    But there he was yesterday winning the Masters, his first major in 11 years.

    To talk about Tiger's comeback, I am joined by Armen Keteyian, the co-author of "Tiger Woods" and the executive producer of The Athletic.

    Armen, thank you so much for being on the "NewsHour."

    Talk about the arc, from the height of his stardom to that DUI photo in 2017 to yesterday. You wrote on Twitter today that Shakespeare had nothing on what we're witnessing now.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Well, I don't think so, when you talk about a rise and a fall, an epic fall from grace, and then this story of redemption, the rise back to prominence.

    But it's more — it's — I think, Nick, because of the depths that Tiger fell to, I think it's a hole that unlike any other athlete, any celebrity, businessman, you name it, has ever reached. It was rock bottom, and then some.

    And then to rise out of that, not just to get healthy and to be able to walk again, but to walk that final fairway at Augusta yesterday, make the putt leading to his fifth Green Jacket, it's like a fairy tale. It's almost unimaginable.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Let's talk about rock bottom, as you put it, in two respects.

    The first respect, how bad did it get when it came to his affairs and, frankly, his attitude to the game and his fans and to everyone?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    It's safe to say, as you mentioned, there were multiple affairs, beginning well — shortly after he got married. It didn't slow Tiger down at all.

    And it was just that coupled with the kind of person that he became. In many ways, as I mentioned, Tiger was a machine. He was programmed, almost like a computer, to do one thing, which was to win golf tournaments, and it came with a price.

    And that was what drove Jeff and I, Jeff Benedict and I, in the writing the book, was, what is the price of genius? What is the cost of genius?

    And in Tiger's case, it was a completely entitled person, an individual who showed very little appreciation and gratitude for others who were doing things for him. Even a simple thank you at times was too much for Tiger to offer.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    How bad was the pain? How bad did it get in terms of his back?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Well, for long stretches of time, many, many weeks and sometimes even months, he could barely get out of bed.

    There was one stretch where he barely got out of bed for 10 straight days. Every step he took was pain personified. And there were points in time where Tiger never felt, A, he could swing a golf club again, but it was unclear as to how well he would actually be able to walk again.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Golf is not only, of course, about physical ability. It's also mental ability. How do you think he went from that rock bottom to what we saw yesterday?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Well, he went through rehab, and I think he took a long look at himself in the mirror and said, is this the kind of father that I want to be to my two children?

    He loves his kids. Earl loved him.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Earl, his father.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    And Tida loved him, his mom.

    Yes, Earl, the father, and Tida, the mother, loved him, but they loved in a different way.

    I think Tiger has taken what he learned from his parents, what he liked and what he didn't like, and has turned a tremendous amount of love to his children.

    And I think he looked in the mirror and said, really, is this the kind of dad that I want my children to be around and to be raised by? And whatever he went through in rehab, whatever he said to himself or others said to him, it changed him.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Which brings us to the juxtaposition of two moments, I would say.

    One, we saw this incredible video yesterday of Tiger hugging his son right after he won, saying, "I love you, son," and from 1997, of course, one of the most famous moments perhaps in the last few decades in golf history, Tiger being embraced by his father, Earl, who said, "I love you, son."

  • Armen Keteyian:

    When I saw him hug Charlie, the first thing that came to my mind as like, oh, my God, this is 1997 all over again, that iconic scene with Earl right after he had won the Masters by 12 strokes, and just a record-setting performance.

    That was the arrival of Tiger Woods in the biggest of ways and, really, truly the beginning of Tiger mania, for good or bad. And then to see Charlie there, and to see the way Tiger hugged him, that was a generational hug. That was from father to son to father to son.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Very quickly, the president has said that he will award Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Does Tiger Woods deserve it?

  • Armen Keteyian:

    Well, if it's for impact on the sport and influence in a game.

    I mean, you referenced it, socially, culturally, financially, racially, he changed the game of golf. And, in many ways, he changed the — you know, the ways of sports.

    So, if we're talking about a kind of a lifetime achievement award for the influence that he's had, he absolutely deserves it. And he's probably got a lifetime pass now to play with President Trump any time, any place.

    So it comes with a set of benefits there, too, I imagine.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    I would imagine so.

    Armen Keteyian, author of the book "Tiger Woods," executive producer of The Athletic, thank you so much.

  • Armen Keteyian:

    My pleasure, Nick. Thank you.

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