Jenkins: Tiger Woods proved doubters wrong with comeback
Jack Jenkins | Monday, October 29, 2018
Tiger Woods has been one of the most prominent athletes in the 21st century, accomplishing things in golf that no other player had ever accomplished. He was on pace to not only beat Jack Nicklaus’ major record of 18, but destroy it. But out of nowhere in 2009, his sex scandal was released to the public, which hurt his personal life, and then the injuries started to pile up. In 2014, he started witnessing the back issues, and then before you know it, he went through four back surgeries in the span of three years, only playing in one tournament during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Stuck on 14 majors and 79 career wins, it seemed as if Woods’ career might be coming to an end. Even Nick Faldo, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, told reporters that Tiger had said at the 2017 Masters dinner, where he didn’t play, that he was done. “He said ‘I’m done, my back is done.’ He was in agony, he was in pain, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn’t move.” Even Tiger, who is known to be rather confident in himself, thought his career was over. However, in 2017, Tiger posted a video on social media of him pitching golf balls and captioned it, “Dr. gave me the ok to start pitching.” This immediately got the golfing world heated up for another Tiger comeback, but many knew that this would probably be his last comeback, and if Tiger re-injured his back, it would all be over.
The start of the 2018 season had a different buzz with the return of one of the best golfers of all time. Fans were eager to see if there was still any magic left. Early on, Tiger continued to say he was just happy to be competing again. But Tiger showed signs that he could still compete at the highest level, losing by one shot at the Valspar Championship in early March. The astonishing thing is the Valspar Championship on Sunday had a higher TV rating than the 2017 U.S. Open, which can only explain one thing: Tiger Woods is back in red on Sunday, with a chance to win. As fans and the golfing world desperately wanted to see Tiger Woods hoist another trophy for the first time in five years, Woods kept knocking on the doorstep, but couldn’t deliver. Having chances to win at the British Open and PGA Championship, Tiger was proving that he was right there and still one of the best golfers in the world. While it was remarkable for him just to be competing at such a high level again after the four back surgeries and not being able to walk less than a year ago, a win would complete the comeback for real.
The Tour Championship is the last golf tournament of the 2018 season, which consists of the top-30 players on tour for the season. Tiger went on to say that he was just proud that he made it to the Tour Championship — there isn’t a exemption for it, you have to earn your way there. Tiger went on to start his tournament with a 65 and 68, which put him right at the top of the leaderboard with a solid chance to win the tournament with a good weekend, and on Saturday that is exactly what he did. I remember watching his Saturday round at a bar with my friends, and it was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. He birdied six out of his first seven holes, including five in a row. The whole bar was going nuts, people screaming at the TV whenever he made a birdie. That is an effect that most golfers will never have on a fan base. Whether you were a fan of golf or not, people were rooting for Tiger, desperately wanting him to win after everything that he has been through and after everyone writing him off, saying his career was over. Tiger ended up shooting a 65 on Saturday and had a three-shot lead going into the final day.
The sporting world was set for a Tiger Woods victory on that Sunday in late September, and he delivered with a steady round of 71. But the scene on the 18th fairway said it all. As Tiger walked up the 18th hole with a two-shot lead, the gallery stormed the course and followed Tiger all the way up to the green, as if it was his own personal army. As Tiger tapped in his par to secure his 80th victory on the PGA tour, his hands went in the air as the crowd erupted all over the golf course. You could see the emotion in his face as he hugged his caddie, trying to hold back tears and saying, “I can’t believe I’ve won the Tour Championship.”
What makes this comeback so improbable was that a year before his victory he wasn’t able to even get out of bed some days, his old age competing against a younger core of players and remaking a swing that would be compatible with his back. It is safe to say the odds weren’t in his favor. Even all the analysts and other spectators said you will never see anything great from Tiger again. Brandel Chamblee, a golf analyst, said he wouldn’t be able to compete against the young core players today. Tom Watson, eight-time major-winning player, said Woods would be nothing more than a ceremonial golfer. Even close friend Michael Jordan said he “Will not be great again.” These are only a few of the doubters. But Tiger proved them all wrong and completed one of the best comebacks in not only golf, but in all of sports, and will be looking to keep proving people wrong in 2019.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.