Tiger Woods was arrested yesterday in Florida on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. His mugshot with drooping eyes and frazzled hair soon went viral. He later issued a statement that is making headlines this morning, claiming that “alcohol was not involved” and citing “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medication.”
Whatever the cause of his arrest, it is another sad chapter in a story that was once so promising. I remember when Woods seemed destined to pass Jack Nicklaus’s eighteen major championships on the way to recognition as the greatest golfer of all time. After winning the US Open in 2008, he had fourteen major titles and was in the prime of his career.
A year later, he drove his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and a tree. Media scrutiny led to revelations of marital infidelities. He and his wife divorced the next year. Woods has not won a major tournament since.
The day before Woods’s arrest, Bernhard Langer became the first man to win all five senior major golf championships. I watched his victory on television and the interview in which he was asked to comment on his record-breaking success.
Langer complimented the player who came in second, then stated that he had been carrying a piece of paper with him during the round and would like to read what it said. He then read Proverbs 3:5–6 to the national TV audience and testified that his relationship with Christ was more fulfilling for him than golf or any other priority.
Scripture testifies that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), including Tiger Woods and Bernhard Langer. The difference is that the latter admits he needs salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9) while the former does not.
Speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:13–14). St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. AD 313–386) commented on our Lord’s promise:
“Why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. . . .
“In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. . . . Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous.”
The stories of Tiger Woods and Bernhard Langer teach the same truth: material success cannot quench spiritual thirst. This is what philosophers call a “category mistake,” like asking the color of seven or how much friendship weighs. Only the Spirit can fill our spiritual void with “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).