Greatest Comeback in Golf History?

Staff Writer: Ramon Elortondo

Tiger Woods put the biggest exclamation point on a year where he fell short of the big prize time and time again with a win at the Tour Championship, the last tournament of the year. He won a PGA tournament for the first time since 2013, over five years, 1,876 days to be exact, that included many struggles. A divorce, multiple back surgeries where his body was failing him and drugs. No one thought we were going to see one of the greatest of all time if not the greatest on top again.

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Tiger was emotional after his par putt for the win. Raising his fists in excitement he knew how great this moment was. Photo credit: Kyrsten Brader, courtesy from PGA website.

Tiger drew an excited crowd that followed him from hole to hole and sprinted ahead to No. 18 to watch his final shots. The roars were breath-taking as Woods stepped into the sand trap and sent the shot just a few feet from the hole. His expression changed, and he appeared almost relaxed as he watched Rory McIlroy finish his round. He knew it was all over, the wait that seemed eternal was going to end in his next two shots with a secured two shot lead.

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The crowd at the Tour Championship was unlike other tournaments this year. It had a Ryder Cup feel to it. Photo credit: Kyrsten Brader.

Woodstock senior Kyrsten Brader attended the final round, “I’ve never seen anything like it. Golf isn’t usually the most exhilarating sport, but that Sunday was unlike anything. Tiger has the power to change the game,” Brader said.

As he tapped in for the win, he raised his hands and grinned, then hugged McIlroy and his caddie, Joe LaCava, as the crowd chanted “U-S-A,” a preview to the Ryder Cup next week and showed the love the golf world had for Tiger. It was a scene that Woods admitted he’s never seen before. Woods finished Sunday 11-under for the tournament, a two-stroke lead over second-place finisher Billy Horschel.

“I was having a hard time not crying on that last hole,” Woods said in an NBC interview. “I said, ‘Hey, I could still hit this thing out of bounds. Let’s just suck it up and hit some shots here.’”

After the interview Tiger walked off, hugging his girlfriend, telling her he loves her. His two kids were not with him in Atlanta to capture this great accomplishment. A lot of other tour players were there to congratulate him for his win.

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Paul Casey (pictured above) finished tied for 11th place this weekend. Photo credit: Kyrsten Brader.

“I just can’t believe I pulled this off after what. . ..” he said, his voice trailing off in emotion during the trophy ceremony. “It’s been tough. It’s been not so easy the last couple of years.”

It most definitely has not been easy. Tiger’s road of misery began in 2009 with claims of an affair between Woods and Rachel Uchitel, a nightclub manager. After that, Woods is involved in an accident where he drove his Escalade into a fire hydrant outside of his house. The embarrassing video surfaced showing his wife at the time pulling Woods out of the vehicle.

On top of that, his name kept popping up involving multiple affairs with waitresses, porn stars and more club promoters. After all this, Woods announced his “indefinite break” from professional golf. This was all in just one horrifying year for the once golf dominating Tiger Woods.

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Tiger walking around the par 3 hole at the tour championship. He was the main attraction and had cameras all over him the whole day. Photo credit: Jay Boatwright.

In the years to come, Woods realized he had a problem and checked himself into sex addiction clinic. Woods cost himself millions of dollars that came from big endorsement deals like AT&T, Gatorade and General Motors to name a few. Woods was taking himself out of tournaments due to injury. Hank Haney, the coach of his once perfect swing that brought terror to the field, resigned after being with Woods since 2003. Woods and his wife Nordegren announced divorce.

In 2011, Woods was back in the spotlight at the Masters. That didn’t mean Tiger was back to his old ways. He was falling behind shooting more bogeys than birdies, and to put the cherry on top to a horrific year, Woods sprained his MCL and Achilles tendon. By that time, his ranking plummeted down from what had been a dominating number one in the world to number 58.

He fired his long-time caddy, Steve Williams. He injured his back and knee further but Woods by this time in 2012 was regaining his golf game and it looked like he had put his wrongdoings in the past. Woods won the Arnold Palmer invitational and regained his No. 1 ranking while adding his seventh Player’s Championship win.

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Tiger was a force on the greens all tournament long. Part of the reason he won is he was able to save par on long puts that saved him from hitting many bogeys. Photo credit: Kyrsten Brader.

Tiger’s recovery from everything he’s been through made me remember a friend of mine that struggled from addiction. I asked him what it was like, the internal thoughts of a person going through so much. “It really puts you in your place when you’re in the mental hospital. Thoughts raced through my head asking myself how I got here. I feel for Tiger, I know he didn’t want all of this for himself but as humans sometimes we are who we are, and we have to go through trials to be the best we can become in the future.” Caleb Malone, a former Woodstock student, said.

The road went downhill once again in 2014. Woods missed the Masters for the first time because of a back surgery that also caused him to miss the US Open. Woods was missing cut after cut and took name was taken out of the Ryder Cup. Woods knew he wasn’t what he once was. In 2015, for the first time since 1996, Tiger dropped outside the world’s top 100 ranked golfers at 104. More surgeries come, and the media began talking about Woods never coming back.

People had begun to lose faith in what once was the most dominating player to touch a club. He missed all four majors that year and in 2016, he slid all the way down under the world’s top 500. Woods was not done yet, he kept missing cuts and lost out in playing multiple tournaments and majors, but in May of 2017, Woods was arrested on a DUI charge. According to the report, he had fallen asleep at the wheel and failed multiple sobriety tests. On the bright side alcohol was not one of them.

“I’m not going to lie, I never thought we’d see this day. Tiger looked awful! I don’t watch golf without Tiger in contention, so I couldn’t be happier to be able to watch a sport on Sunday. Especially if it’s as exciting as it was this weekend.” Chris Carroll, a Woodstock senior.

Here we are today, asking ourselves if Tiger is back and if this is the greatest comeback in professional sports for a player who has gone through hell. After seeing everything he really had to go through, how far he went down the wrong path and the injuries that derailed his career.

Tiger had a drug dependence issue, an addiction with sex and of course, the injuries. He went through public humiliation but somehow was a sympathetic figure that had the whole world behind him. The American comeback, the redemption story, the underdog was overcome everything imaginable, therefore, the answer to this question is yes.

 

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