Will the events of this week harm the legacy of Tiger Woods?

Well, it depends.

Not the answer you were looking for perhaps, but when it comes to the term legacy there is room for discussion. The biggest problem with trying to determine a person’s legacy is that no one has a good definition for the word.

If you go to the dictionary for a definition you will likely see the following: a gift by will, especially of money or other personal property. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. A better definition that I recently ran across — though by no means ideal — is this: the way one is remembered by generations to come.

I think you can see the conundrum. People will use their own definitions of the term legacy and they will have their own thoughts on the matter. Sportscasters love to tell you what you should think when it comes to an athlete’s legacy, but whether you want to use their logic or not is entirely up to you.

Personally I don’t understand the emphasis on winning championships to establish a legacy. The LeBron v Jordan debate tends to concentrate on how many rings each has. I don’t understand how one’s legacy can be tied to the performance of others in team sports. Trent Dilfer quarterbacked a Super Bowl champion while Dan Marino did not. Who has the better legacy?

You will never convince me that Ernie Banks — Mr. Cub — was not a great player. He never won a World Series, but that does not diminish his legacy for me.

As for Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, his accomplishments on the golf course are legendary. His behavior off it, is a little suspect. What will he be remembered for? Again, it depends on who you ask, but let’s take a look at what Tiger has done from a golf standpoint.

Woods turned professional at the end of the summer of 1996 — which means a lot of people reading this may have not been born yet — at the age of 20. He won his first major tournament in 1997, taking the Masters green jacket by a whopping 12 strokes. He became the number one ranked golfer in the world in June of 1997. No one has been ranked No. 1 for more consecutive weeks or total weeks than Tiger Woods. In 2000, he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots! Only one other golfer was under par for the tournament. Tiger not only won, he won big.

Then in December of 2009 came the fallout from his infidelity. Several women from around the world came forward and told of having affairs with Woods. He would eventually admit his transgressions and it would cost him his marriage. Is that what he will be remembered for? For some people, you bet.

His golf game suffered and he dropped to 58th in the world. In March of 2013, he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and ascended to No. 1 once again. But in April of 2014, he went through his first back surgery and it has been a struggle ever since. He comes back, gets re-injured, tries again and ends up withdrawing.

More recently he said he felt no pain after his most recent surgery and there was hope that he would return to the tour and perhaps, his position as the best golfer ever to play the game. Then came this week!

Tiger Woods was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving at 3 a.m. Monday. He was found asleep at the wheel of his car and the videos have been disturbing to watch. He claims it was a reaction to several medications that caused his behavior. He did pass a breathalyzer test.

Many people will take this latest turn of events and decide what his legacy will be. It won’t be flattering. His bizarre behavior does leave many questions unanswered, but between this and the infidelity…

Many people may not realize how good a golfer he was. Try on these facts. Tiger Woods was the PGA Player of the Year 11 times. He won 79 PGA Tour events — second only to Sam Snead’s 82. He won 14 major championships (remember that is the biggest yardstick to some) — second only to Jack Nicklaus’ 18.

Perhaps the most important thing is that he may not be done. Tiger may indeed play more golf and play the game successfully. Then again, he may have more off the course issues.

When it comes to legacies, athletes are not the only ones that are judged. Ask someone what they thought of President Richard Nixon and you will likely hear the term disgrace. Because of the Watergate Scandal, he was forced to resign the Presidency. Few will talk about how popular he was in his first term as he had many accomplishments including ending American involvement in Vietnam.

So, what will be the legacy of Tiger Woods? First we will have to wait until he is through playing golf.

Then it depends on who you talk to.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist

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