Ten years ago yesterday Tiger Woods went to confession. It wasn’t the Catholic kind, where you go into a private booth and talk quietly to an unseen priest. It was the public kind—no priest, just the press.

The reporters who were there didn’t get to assign penance or even ask questions. Tiger had already decided what he needed to do. Part of that was to follow Buddhism, the religion of his mother, better. He was even going to wear something on his wrist as a reminder.

Kind of like WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) I suppose, only different.

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I like this guy

Many today admire Jordan Spieth. I still admire Tiger as a golfer and have since his days at Stanford. I happened to live in Palo Alto at the time and he was the talk of the town. I remember him making a triple-bogey on a tough par 4 at Pasatiempo in a college tournament. 

I also remember his “Hello world” presser and his first win at the Masters and his incredible bunker shot 220 yards over water in a tournament I can’t remember.

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And of course I remember the confessional, the rehab, the coaching changes, the divorce. I remember his amazing touch on the greens and his tender touch when he hugged his kids. I remember the tears when he hugged his father.

Tiger has a heart

What all that tells me is that somewhere inside a broken Tiger Woods there lives a heart. Forget the unbelievable talent, the unmatched dedication, the incredibly stupid mistakes, the world class failures and the world class wins.

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That’s the stuff we see, because “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Inside Tiger Woods there is a heart for God to see.

Buddha can’t see it, because Gautama Buddha, wise as he was, is no longer alive. Buddha was a great teacher, but Buddha died.

The fix Tiger needs

The appeal of Buddhism for Tiger is at least twofold: his mother, whom he loves, is a Buddhist; it is a religion of works, of doing the right thing.

As smart as Tiger is and as hard as he is willing to work and able to work, that will never work.

Tiger may need to change his swing to protect his body and I hope he finds the right coach for that. But he needs to have his heart fixed to change his life. Buddha isn’t the answer, but there is someone who is. I hope Tiger finds him.

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