By now, you probably have read countless stories and seen many commentaries regarding Tiger Woods’ unforgettable conquest in capturing his fifth Masters championship.
There cannot be enough words to describe what Woods accomplished in Augusta and what it means.
No one can be accused of over-exaggerating his achievement.
It was everything that has been said……and then some.
How many of us honestly and sincerely ever thought Tiger Woods would ever catapult himself back to the stratosphere of his sport?
How many of us ever figured he would become immensely relevant again when he couldn’t walk or get out of a chair a few short years ago? Having endured four back surgeries. The first in 2014. Two more a year later. Another one two years ago.
In 2008, two operations on his left knee.
His two children had never seen him dominate golf the way he has. They only knew golf as the cause for his physical miseries.
Only when he hugged the two of them coming off the 18th green, the way his father hugged him when he won his first Masters, did they finally know the joy of witnessing one of the greatest, if not THE greatest ever to play his game.
It all came full circle.
Who can know the fierce strength, the inner determination, and the extraordinary patience Tiger has exhibited in dragging himself from the depths back to the heights in a brutally difficult sport in which to excel.
And it’s been more than the physical aspect, as we all know.
This man was a train wreck.
His personal life was a mess. It was sad the way this incredibly popular sports star, with amazing talents, was seemingly throwing it all away with his arrogance, immoral lifestyle, and utter disregard for decency, which will be touched on shortly.
Add to all that, debilitating physical problems.
Tiger Woods began his comeback a year ago. He knocked on the door of success, coming tantalizingly close, finishing second in the PGA Championship, a tie for sixth in the Open at Carnoustie, before winning the challenging Tour Championship in Atlanta at the end of the season. The blueprint was established. His fellow tour players have said they could see a major comeback in the making. Rickie Fowler, for one, was convinced. Woods’ competitors would know. They were up-close-and-personal.
When Tiger knocked in that final short putt last Sunday to close the deal, his opponents in competition were visibly and verbally appreciative of what the “elder statesman” had accomplished.
The reception Tiger received from his colleagues, from Bernhard Langer, of another era, to Brooks Koepka, a current power, was telling.
In being as far down as Woods has been, he appears grateful, yes, grateful, for getting another opportunity to do what he has loved since early childhood. He has forged friendships with these younger players. They have responded to him.
None of this is meant to indicate that they are intimidated by Tiger. There is no doubt, during his original run to greatness,
Tiger Woods intimated his challengers. No more. There are probably more young, talented players on the PGA Tour than ever. It was again evident scanning the leader board during that final round.
Woods is 43. Nothing will be automatic, or close to it, as his career moves forward.
Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won the Masters in 1986, his 18th and final major title. He became the oldest winner of the Masters, and it was 11 years between triumphs at, what is, the standard-bearer of all the major championships.
After Tiger won his 15th major at Augusta, Nicklaus, who holds the all-time record at 18, said he never counted Woods out of reaching the pinnacle that may be the ultimate in all of sports.
With his precise distance control with his irons, and his phenomenal short game, all that would matter would be Tiger’s health, Nicklaus said, for Woods to make a solid run at 18 major titles.
When Tiger has a good feel for a golf course, he is always a good bet to win or come very close.
We all know about how Tiger Woods feels about Augusta National.
The next two majors will be the PGA next month, and the U.S. Open in June.
The PGA will be held at Bethpage Black on Long Island.
Woods won the U.S. Open there in 2002.
The U.S. Open will be contested at Pebble Beach.
Woods won his first Open there in 2000.
Do you see what I see?
Whatever transpires, here he comes.
Then there is the issue of the greatest sports comeback of all time.
Too often, we rush to judgment in making a declaration that what we just witnessed is the greatest moment, greatest achievement, greatest whatever, of all time.
There have been many. Too many to list here. There was Muhammad Ali, exiled for 43 months, who returned to the ring after missing out on some of his peak years, eventually re-capturing the Heavyweight title.
There were others in auto race driving, cycling, and in tennis.
I vividly recall the story of Rocky Bleier. Bleier was a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was drafted into the U.S. Army after his rookie season. He volunteered for duty in South Vietnam, where he lost part of his right foot and riddled by shrapnel in his lower right leg after being hit with a grenade. He was later awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
But he miraculously returned to football, was a key performer in four Steeler Super Bowl wins, and gained 1000 yards one season.
Then there is Ben Hogan, one of golfing’s greats, who was hit by a bus in a car crash and unbelievably returned in 16 months to win the U.S. Open in 1950.
Before the 2019 Masters got underway, Tiger Woods himself, said Hogan’s comeback was the greatest ever.
The passing of time blurs many of the grand moments, including comeback stories that were considered never-to-be-topped when they took place.
Let’s just say Tiger Woods dramatic rebound at Augusta is the greatest we can remember. I believe it’s not only the greatest in golf but in all sports. And I also feel, considering the time in which we live, with the immediacy of social media, photos and videos from cellphones, constant analysis of all that goes on, what Tiger Woods achieved, transcends sports.
I have repeatedly tagged all of Tiger’s issues with a discussion of his personal problems.
Because they were a major part of his downfall.
Here’s what I liked about Tiger’s Masters victory apart from his performance on the golf course.
His body language.
Of course, we are accustomed to his fist pump and elation when he sinks a putt for birdie.
It was wonderful to see his strident walk when he could sense a critical moment in playing a shot.
How he would quickly pick up his tee after a crisp drive and smartly set out to walk to his ball in the fairway.
But there was also the ease in his manner, the smile, the acknowledgment of his adoring fans as he walked the course.
There was also a sincere appreciation of his fellow players, the feeling that maybe he, himself, despite his grueling rehab and preparation, couldn’t quite believe all that had happened. Capped by those emotional hugs of his children, his mother and his girlfriend.
I’ve written about how crucial it was for Tiger Woods to turn his life around, not only the part about golf.
From the view from here, he looks to have grown. Matured.
I sure hope so.
For if he has, what we all witnessed at Augusta National, was truly a life comeback for the ages.
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