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 When Tiger Woods burst onto the scene in 1997 with a Masters win at just 21, people like me, who never really got into golf, started paying attention. Because here was this young man of color, this guy who somehow made it into this segregated space, and he was not only holding his own. He was killing it. 

Tiger Woods is second only to Jack Nicklaus with 15 major tournament wins. He’s tied for first all-time with 82 PGA Tour victories. He leads all active golfers in career major wins. He is, quite simply, the greatest of all time. 

So when we heard this week that he was in a car accident, there was worry. There was anxiety. There was fear. We thought of Kobe Bryant in that helicopter, and R&B singer Aliyah in that plane, and we just hoped Tiger Woods wouldn’t be next. 

Because we knew when we watched Tiger that we were watching history. We were watching a prodigy.  We were seeing what it looked like to be head and shoulders above the rest. 

And maybe when we saw Tiger we saw our own vulnerability. A man trying somehow to fit in. We were mad at him when he told Oprah Winfrey that he was Cablinasian instead of Black. In those days, before prominent mixed-race people like Vice President Kamala Harris proudly shared both sides of their heritage, we didn’t understand Woods’ struggle to define his Caucasian, Black, Indian and Asian ancestry. 

We were annoyed when he took up with a white nanny named Elin Nordegren and married her. Then, when things didn’t work out, we secretly hoped he’d learn his lesson and finally marry a sista. But as good as Tiger is at playing golf, the truth is, he’s just like the rest of us. He’s muddling through life, experiencing successes and failures, and trying to find himself along the way.

Tiger Woods has shocked us before, coming back from a major back injury to play golf at a high level. But after suffering serious leg injuries in this crash, it’s not about golf anymore. It’s about life. Let’s hope that Tiger finds new meaning in his.

Listen to Solomon Jones on “Your Voice,” Saturdays at 8 am on Classix 107.9