Las Vegas, Nevada (August 25, 2011)–First off, Tiger Woods is not from Las Vegas. But his ties to the city run deep. And now that he is struggling mightily, he needs to take a cue from a true Las Vegas native–Andre Agassi–and begin the long climb back to the top. First on his list should be to reserve his spot in Las Vegas' PGA Tour event later this year. —By Brian Hurlburt
At one time, tennis great Agassi, who grew up in Las Vegas, lost his form and plummeted down the world rankings. Sound familiar? Agassi began his comeback by humbling himself. He played in a satellite tournament in Las Vegas. The event was way down the ladder in prestige as compared to lower level ATP events. But there was Agassi, serving and volleying on a court at UNLV in front a handful of people. The first step in an epic process. Hell, he didn't even win that tournament.
Agassi re-dedicated himself to tennis and to making a difference in the world, and made it back to the pinnacle, ultimately earning the number one ranking and several more major championships following his stunning collapse on the court, divorce off the court, and other missteps along the way (since revealed in his autobiography). Plus, his image–which at one time was that of a bratty tennis phenom— transformed into that of an extremely dedicated and generous athlete. Agassi has become one of the most beloved athletes of our time. On or off the court. Tiger, you could definitely take a page from the Agassi playbook.
Your serve, Tiger. We assume you have hit rock bottom in your golf and personal life, as Agassi did. It is now your turn to humble yourself and take a cue from our Las Vegas icon. Call Justin Timberlake, now the namesake of Las Vegas' PGA Tour event ( the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open) and reserve your spot in the 2011 event that starts at the end of September. While the JT Open is much more prestigious than a satellite tennis event, playing in it would probably be as humbling in your mind. This is where you won your first-ever PGA Tour event … the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational (playing in the tournament via a sponsor's invite), but you haven't been back since 1997 when you tried to defend. There would be poetic justice if you played Vegas again … returning to where it all began at a time when you are looking to start all over.
Tiger, you have always loved this city. Las Vegas is where you played in tournaments as a junior and college golfer, plus you came within a whisker of playing college golf here at UNLV for legendary coach Dwaine Knight. During your UNLV recruitment you met physical therapist and Las Vegas resident Keith Kleven who you worked with for many years. He played a big role in your career and in keeping your legs together during your last major win at the 2008 U.S. Open. You hobbled around Torrey Pines but survived to win in a playoff, each night Kleven by your side working on a way to get you back on the course the next day. And you also spent many hours at the Butch Harmon School of Golf, honing your game with Harmon. You and he built the swing that won the Tiger Slam in 2000, much of the work being done as the Las Vegas sun shone down on the Harmon School located at the back end of Rio Secco Golf Club practice range. And you have come here for about a decade to host the highly-successful Tiger Jam event that raises funds and awareness for the Tiger Woods Foundation. Add it all up and you are practically a native.
It's been two years since your accident and most of those watching could care less about your other escapades in Las Vegas that came to light following that fateful night in Florida. Plus, it has become clear that you had your 'fun' in cities across the globe and not just in Las Vegas, so there shouldn't be any public relations ramifications if you play here, as some have suggested. So come back now, get humbled, and maybe win again in Las Vegas. Your first official win was here and you could soon make it your first victory on what could possibly become the greatest comeback in the history of sports should you rise, again, to the pinnacle.
Tiger, call Justin. Reserve your spot. And while you're at it, line up the musical talent for the 2012 Tiger Jam. I am sure JT can make time to help you raise money for your charity. Much like you will be doing for him when you show up in September at his PGA Tour event that benefits the Shriners, a group that is helping to make medical miracles happen on a daily basis. One tournament in Las Vegas could begin the transformation of your game and your image, much the way it did for Agassi. And there truly are other similarities between you and Agassi. Both of you were brought up by hard-driving fathers who demanded nothing less than excellence. You both spent an entire childhood dedicated to your craft, missing out on things that other kids did. And both of you hit rock bottom after reaching the top of your professions. Tiger, you can become the next Agassi. On and off the fairways. Tiger, the ball is in your court–or fairway–whatever the case may be.