Everyone’s talking about Tiger Woods this week. Not only because he won the Masters golf tournament, not only because that was his 15th major win, but most especially because it was his first major win since 2008.

The years since then were marked with a series of dark chapters. Sex scandal. Divorce. DUI arrest. Debilitating back pain. At one point his world ranking dropped to below 1,000.

And while commentators hailed his victory as “one of the greatest career revivals in the history of sports,” I see something more. To me, the Tiger Woods comeback is a redemption story that shows all of us how to make our own turnaround. We are all Tiger Woods. He took at least four actions that will put anyone on the road to redemption.

1. Move into the light

Tiger Woods would have stayed on his trajectory of destruction if he had tried to keep his shame hidden. Eventually he had to go public with the truth about his adultery and addiction. His honesty about the missteps of the past was the first step toward a better future. It works that way for anyone.

Even if our sins may not seem as shameful or shocking as Tiger’s, all of us have something we’d like to stay secret. But we can’t experience redemption until we admit we need to be redeemed.

Maybe we won’t go on television, as Tiger did, with an admission of our wrongs. But somebody needs to know about them. The dark deeds must be pulled into the light.  


2. Face the pain.

The beginning of Tiger’s redemption story is not pretty. He lost friends, lucrative endorsement deals, his wife, almost his kids.

Some people aren’t willing to walk through the pain as Tiger did. They keep trying to mask it. More drinks. More drugs. More sex. More lies. More hiding. More grasping to protect a reputation and to maintain the fragile veneer of respect.

After he hit bottom, Tiger didn’t do any of that. And when his back threatened to fail him, he didn’t give in to the pain. He kept working to get strong again—not only physically but emotionally as well.

It’s one thing to admit our mistakes. It’s another to take steps to keep from repeating them. Tiger followed through.

3. Write your own story.

Not long ago, pundit after pundit was saying, “Tiger can’t come back.” He was too old. He had suffered too much. It had been too long since his last win. Tiger didn’t listen. He just kept working, doing the right thing, walking beyond his past.

Some of us are too willing to believe the naysayers in our lives. More of us need to realize that tomorrow can be a new day if we do the right thing today, regardless of what happened yesterday.


4. Surround yourself with supporters.

Tiger, once seen as intense and isolated, is different today. He seems to know he can’t—or he doesn’t want to—succeed alone. When he walked off the field Sunday, first he hugged his children and his mother. And then he was greeted by fellow players who had gathered to congratulate him. Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson—they and many others were there. They were almost as happy with his win as he was. They were rooting for him to be redeemed.

We’ll sooner and better experience the turnarounds we want when we ask others to help us. Some repentance may occur in secret, but most lasting change happens in the company of those who will walk beside us to a new day. That’s the secret of support groups, 12-step meetings, and true Christian fellowship.

That leads me to think about Jesus, who lived the ultimate comeback story. Most readers of this blog are concerned with redeeming more than a career or a reputation or a golf game. Although we’d do well to imitate the physical and emotional steps Tiger took, we know in the end those actions are not enough.

We need the example and teaching of Jesus. We need the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we believe Jesus and yield to the indwelling Spirit, we are redeemed.

Then we can raise our arms and celebrate with intense joy, just like Tiger did on the golf course last Sunday. But not after just one major victory. Renewed and rejoicing, we can revel in a turnaround that continues day after day after day.  Mr. Woods, if you were to somehow ever read this, I would love to tell you of the last part of your redemption story that comes through a hope in Christ. In fact, if you are reading this and need a redemption story, I would love to share it with you too.