How Many Rock Bottoms Will Tiger Woods Hit?

The fall of Tiger Woods has been a sad train wreck to watch.

At this point, I’m not sure that his demise can be attributed to the fallout from his scandals, as those are more than 7 years old. Still, his personal crises could not have come at a worse time.

He was recovering from knee surgery; he was reaching an age range where physical limitations begin to set in. This was not a good time for a personal crisis that could affect the mental aspects of his game.

But that was 7 years ago. And Tiger is a great competitor who knows how to win. And even if his body isn’t what it was when he was a Spring chicken, he can still be competitive.

Sadly, except for a few bright spots, Tiger Woods has been in a flat spin.

His driving distance has fallen considerably since his knee surgery. This has put greater pressure on his short game. Making matters worse, his opponents stopped fearing him.

AS a result, he has struggled to get off to good starts in tournaments. This has put greater pressure on him to have good second rounds in order to make cuts. That has forced him to take risks that are more challenging given his diminished physical health. When you’re hitting 300+ yards off the tee, a par 5 is a potential eagle.

If your driving distance falls 10 yards, you’re more likely to be putting for birdie or par where it was once eagle or birdie. If your driving accuracy starts falling, then you will be hitting out of rough–or bunkers–more often than you did before. That means your second shots are going to be coming up short. On a par 4, you might be chipping out of a bunker to get “up and down” where you would have been on the green and putting for birdie.

It’s a lot harder mentally when you have to “go up and down” to save par rather than get a birdie. If you get a bogey, it’s harder to make that up. If you get two bogeys, you’ll be struggling to stay at even par where you might have carded a -2 or a -3. If you take big risks to make up for those bogeys–and fail–you fall deeper into the hole. And due to the competitive nature of the PGA Tour, any score above par puts you in danger of missing the cut.

If you want to WIN, you have to be able to shoot -2 or better for four rounds.

Tiger Woods is having a problem doing that, as the cost of recovering from his mistakes went up at a time when his likelihood of making mistakes also went up.

Can he still win? Certainly. But for that to happen, he will need to be able to put FOUR rounds of solid golf, breaking par every time. And in the majors, he will need to do this against a competitive field that no longer fears him.

At this point, if he wins another Major, it will be the most incredible comeback in golf since Ken Venturi conquered the sweltering heat in the 1964 U.S. Open.

If he somehow finds a way to pass Nicklaus for career Major victories, it will be the most incredible comeback in the history of sports.

My $0.02 on Barnabas Piper

Our friends at The Wartburg Watch are having quite the row over Barnabas Piper, the son of John Piper. His defenders will point out that the divorce was due to his wife having an affair, whereas his detractors (among whom are the TWW crowd) will point out the hard line that John Piper–Barnabas’ father–has taken on divorce over the years.

For the record, I’m going to state it right off the bat: Barnabas Piper is not qualified to hold the office of deacon, pastor, bishop, overseer, elder, or any other title that we would ascribe to the positions specified in 1 Timothy and Titus.

I don’t care who was at fault for his divorce.

I don’t care if his (now ex) wife was sleeping with the entire New England Patriots football team.

The pastoral epistles are very clear on this matter: one who aspires to such an office must be above reproach.

If you’ve been divorced, it may be no fault of your own but the fact remains: you’re still disqualified.

Church leadership is not an Equal Opportunity institution. This isn’t about your “rights”. The qualifications are what they are for a reason: some of them are matters of character whereas others are matters of vulnerability and–still–others are matters of credibility. The latter two are not always within your control, but they still apply.

Even if you were divorced for a perfectly-valid reason, the problem is you’ll always have room for outsiders to say, “hey, I can get divorced…look at [X]!” It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t justified in his case. If you are a church leader, it will embolden others in bad marriages to seek divorces, appealing to your authority, even if their reasons for divorce might not be valid.

You can be a man of great character and still not be qualified to be a pastor. By accepting that, you are showing the Church an example of humility. And this is not without Biblical precedent.

In the Old Testament, you will be hard-pressed to find a better man in the post-Samuel period than Jonathan.

By all indications in Scripture, he was qualified to be King. He was the son of the sitting King; he was a war hero; he was loyal; he was Godly. He’s one of the few people in the Bible about whom we know of nothing of negative value. He would almost certainly have made an excellent King.

Except for one thing: because of his father’s sins–which were no fault of Jonathan’s–God had picked David, not Jonathan, to be King.

And Jonathan was cool with that! He didn’t mount an insurrection against David; he didn’t collude with his father, who was trying to kill David. In fact, Jonathan stuck out his own neck to protect David from his father.

A lot of folks long to be like David, and it’s not simply because he was a man after God’s own heart. They like David because he got to be KING. If it was a character matter, you’d see lots of studies on Jonathan.

But God has probably called more of us to be like Jonathan. The great philosopher, “Dirty Harry” Callahan observed, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Sometimes, God imposes those limitations, and those limitations are not always issues of character. You do, however, owe it to God and the general Body to accept those limits.

HAVING SAID THAT, Barnabas Piper is not in a leadership position in the Church; he simply happens to be the son of one of the more prominent pastors in that realm.

As for who was really at fault in the divorce, it’s anyone’s guess. He claims it was due to an affair; by his account, her turning away from him was due to his chronic dishonesty.

The problem is, his running his mouth does him no favors; in fact, his best course of action is to just shut up already. By running his mouth, he’s acting more like Tullian Tchividjian and less like a man of character. If he feels that he needs to speak in order to vindicate his family name, then he needs to know that he is only doing more damage by talking.

Now given that TWW seems to want to take a shot at the elder Piper at every turn, I have this to say: this isn’t about John Piper. Barnabas is a grown adult; he was married; his decisions (for better and worse) in that marriage were his own responsibility; his wife’s actions were her responsibility. The divorce was their–not John’s–responsibility.

Every family has a set of “family jewels”; I don’t care if you’re me, Ame, Cubbie, or even John Piper. John Piper may be all that and a pound of bourbon-cured honey bacon, but everyone has dark edges. And even if you do everything right–and who on earth does?–that is not a guarantee that your children will walk in those steps.

Even worse: in a marriage, you can’t make your spouse love you. Ladies: you can wear him out in the bedroom and he can still be a cheater. Men: You can be the President of Alpha Males for Jesus and your wife can still be an adulteress like Gomer.

You will never outrun your character, and neither will your spouse. At various times in your life, you will come face-to-face with your character; that is when, as the Bible says, “your sin finds you out.” It may be a public comeuppance. It may be a private comeuppance. But what you do when that happens can–and usually does–impact the very course of your life.

I cannot answer for Barnabas’ ex-wife. She must account for herself. To my knowledge, she isn’t the one running her mouth.

As for Barnabas, he needs to do himself, his family, and the Church a great favor and shut up about that whole matter. God will sort out the guilty and innocent.