Tiger Woods, one of golf’s all-time greats, won his fifteenth major championship at the Masters in Augusta recently, only 2 years after he voiced fears that he might never play the game again.
As he plucked the ball from the hole and strutted off the final green in front of the Augusta patrons on the evening of Sunday 14th April, he displayed raw emotion that we have rarely seen from the mercurial American.
Embracing his mother and two young children, it was impossible to separate this great golfing achievement from the personal issues that Woods has struggled with in recent years.
Tiger’s roar on the 18th hole was not just a celebration of his tournament victory, but also a celebration of victory over personal demons.
Woods last found major success in 2008. Since then he has been through a divorce from wife Elin Nordegren due to his own infidelity (2010), a DUI arrest (2017) and 4 major back surgeries (2014-present).
It is no secret that Woods has been on a journey of self-correction ever since infidelity claims were made against him as early as 2009, as he himself has revealed that he has undertaken a number of rehabilitation programs for often unspecified problems.
On the physical side of things, Woods’s return to the peak of physical performance is a remarkable feat. Multiple back operations led to him telling friends “I’m done” when he took a total break from the game in 2017.
Skip forward two years and he has added a 5th green jacket to his collection.
The 2019 Masters Tournament was typically brutal, as 10 golfers came within 1 or 2 shots of Tiger’s winning 13-under-par score.
Brooks Koepka, winner of 2 majors in 2018 was one of those to run close, as well as reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari who ultimately fell short on the final day. Many more exceptional golfers at the top of their game could be mentioned here.
But ultimately, Tiger Woods was the best of them all.
The romantic sports fan could surely not help but cheer along with Tiger after he sunk the final putt of the tournament. One of golf’s favourite sons who burst onto the scene as a young man with his first Masters win at the age of 21 is back to his best.
Fans have long talked about Tiger’s potential to go down as the unchallenged best ever, as he has sought to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championship victories. One would be forgiven for thinking that the dream had by now died due to the problems that he has faced, yet this victory suggests that there may yet be life in it yet.
At the age of 43, Woods’s career as a golfer is far from over. No-one in the current game knows how to win a major quite like Tiger, as he has won each of the four major championships at least three times.
Tiger’s next big challenge will come mid-March at the PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park, where he won the US Open in 2002. He will surely go into the tournament as one of the favourites with the bookies.
The competitiveness of professional golf at the moment is unquestionably massive and the presence of Tiger Woods only pushes that further.
The 2019 Masters was a delectable start to the golfing season which will see the top stars head on to Bethpage State Park in New York (PGA Championship 16-19th May), Pebble Beach in California (U.S. Open 13-16th June) and Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland (The Open 18-21st July) as they chase the remaining 3 major championship titles of 2019.
Tiger described the feeling of this victory as something he will “never ever forget”.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the sporting world will remember one of the best comebacks ever with equal fondness.
Image: Jim Epler via Wikimedia Commons