Bobby Tuzzio ’20
Some comebacks – Michael Jordan returning to the NBA to win three more championships with the Bulls, or the Red Sox coming back to win the 2004 ALCS after being down 3-0 come to mind – can affect the viewer so emotionally, that they capture the imagination of fans everywhere. Comebacks like these are what make sports so great. Tiger Woods’ return to the top of golf is part of a long list of all-time great sports comebacks. In fact, it may be the greatest of its kind.
Over the last few weeks since his 2019 Masters victory, we have continuously heard statements such as “Who could have thought…?” or “He never could have imagined that he’d be able to play at this level again.” The crazy thing is, both of these statements are true. Tiger started as a child prodigy, rose to the top of the game at the turn of the millenium, and had become the most famous and marketable athlete in the world.
From 1997 to 2008, he won 14 major championships. During that same period, he rose to 2nd all time in most PGA Tour event wins, just one win behind the great Sam Snead. He also became one of the wealthiest athletes on the planet through his winnings in golf as well as his lucrative endorsement deals from companies like Nike and Gatorade.
However, for all the great accomplishments of Tiger Woods on the course, his personal life had plagued his success. The extramarital affairs, coupled with the falling out of his marriage, as well as his 2017 DUI arrest, cannot be ignored. Tiger has had his problems, and, he has had to address those problems and move past them.
His mistakes off the course had affected his ability to compete on the course. In the early 2010s, when his marriage was falling apart, he took a self-imposed hiatus from golf. He struggled to return to the top until 2013, when he reached the number one spot on the World Golf Rankings. However, in 2014, his deteriorating back started to represent arguably his greatest challenge on the course. He went through four back surgeries in 2014, and only competed in one PGA Tour event from the span of August of 2015 to January of 2018. Tiger made a slow and steady comeback in 2018–he played increasingly well in each of the majors, culminating in a 2nd place finish at the 2018 PGA Championship.
What no one saw coming was Tiger’s greatest achievement of all: winning the 2019 Masters. He had started off the tournament well the first two rounds, finishing one behind the leaders entering the weekend at Augusta. He had a slow start in the third round, but rallied to shoot 5-under-par for the round. Entering Sunday two shots behind leader Francesco Molinari, Tiger had one of the most memorable back-nines of his career. Woods pulled away with the win. It was his first major since 2008 and his first green jacket since 2005.
With this all said, it looks as though Tiger is officially back. The chase for the ultimate accomplishment – surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major titles – is back on. His 2019 Masters victory was one of the greatest sports moments in history. A man who has been through this much has proven that he can win again. He beat the men that he, himself, inspired to play golf. He has strong odds going into the upcoming PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won the U.S. Open. Let’s see if Tiger can outdo himself again.