When you think of golf, you think of Tiger Woods. He is one of the greatest golfers of all time. While Woods isn’t the same dominant force as he was over a decade ago, he has definitely faced his share of uphill battles. Many believed he would never win another championship again, but with his incredible playmaking and progression throughout the year, he shockingly won the 2018 Tour Championship, marking the greatest comeback ever seen in golf. Tiger Woods’ name is synonymous with golf, and he single handedly makes golf relevant.
Woods’ last official win came back in 2013. Since then, with multiple back surgeries and countless setbacks, people wondered if Woods was done for good.
“I never thought my kids [would] have understood what I’ve been able to do in the game because they always think I’m the ‘YouTube’ golfer,” Woods said according to SBNation. “They’ve never seen me in action. Most of the stuff they’ve seen has been on highlight packages. I want them to see what I’ve been able to do my entire career. I don’t know how long I’m going to be playing, but I want them to come to a few events. I want them to feel it. I want them to understand it a little bit more.”
As a child, Woods was a golfing prodigy who was introduced to the game by his father, Earl Woods. Turning pro in 1996, Woods was already a national sensation and signed advertisement deals with corporate giants such as Nike and Titleist. At the time, it was the most lucrative endorsement deal in golf history.
Every single year since turning pro, to his last major win in 2008, Woods always had the spotlight on him, turning every tournament into must-see-TV. He was just that good.
But what made Tiger Woods so marketable?
First, he brought a new style to the game of golf, which had never been seen before. Woods’ game brought with it power and distance, where 350-yard drives were common for him. A player like Woods only comes once in a generation, and you know you are a generational talent when courses in the PGA Tour rotation start “tiger-proofing”.
Then there was his name, Tiger, which was certainly uncommon, as well as his appearance being much different than the other golfers he was going up against.
“Tiger embodied a kind of modern cool that golf hadn’t seen before,” said Orin Starn, a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University and author of the book “The Passion of Tiger Woods.” “This was to a certain degree, and still is, a bland, vanilla sport played by anonymous white guys who all dress the same and look the same. So to have this charismatic, young African-American-Asian-American hybrid figure bursting onto the scene made huge news.”
At this year’s PGA Championship with Woods in the midst of his comeback season, CBS announced a 6.1 rating for the final round, which is up a staggering 69% from last year. Keep in mind, Woods did not compete in the PGA Championship in 2017. Although Woods didn’t win, it’s no secret viewership was up because of his spectacular play. A fun thing to note as well is that this was the PGA Championship’s highest rating since Woods won it back in 2009.
However, the end of 2009 to the start of early 2010 saw Woods embroiled in a sex scandal that greatly tarnished his reputation. His apology press conference received mixed reactions with some finding his apology to be sincere and heartfelt while others found his deliverance to be almost robotic. Several companies Woods had sponsorships with ended their deals with him.
You would think that with such a negative spotlight put onto Woods, he would crumble and fade into the abyss. For a while, that seemed like the case.
Woods returned from a brief hiatus to play in the 2010 Masters and although he played decently, his next 2 years on the course saw him struggle mightily.
2013 would be a resurgence year for Woods, as he went on to win multiple tournaments and regained his world top ranking, but, it was short-lived as the next 4 years saw Woods deal with an assortment of back injuries.
In basketball, the hardest injury to recover from is a complete rupture of the achilles because the sport relies heavily on speed and athleticism. An achilles rupture zaps that away almost certainly, and no player has ever come back the same.
Back injuries are essentially the Achilles’ heel of any golfer. Phil Mickelson, an accomplished golfer and foe of Woods, “believed the root of the problem was the obsession with power,” according to The New York Times.
And that is exactly what Woods was and still is to this day: a power hitter.
With 3 unsuccessful back surgeries under his belt, spinal fusion surgery was his last shot. When an athlete deals with a potential career-ending injury like Woods has, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them retire from the game. Even I believed he wouldn’t come back.
Woods proved everyone wrong, including myself.
2018 saw Woods place top 6 in 3 tournaments. For him to even stay competitive with all the mileage on his body is a testament to his work ethic and extraordinary belief in himself.
Woods himself can’t even believe it.
During his return to Augusta, Woods stated, “It’s been a tough road. The amount of times I’ve fallen because my leg didn’t work or I just had to lay on the ground in pain for extended periods of time. Those are some really dark, dark times. I’m a walking miracle … I don’t know if anyone who’s had a lower back fusion can swing the club as fast as I can swing it. That’s incredible.”
Last month, Woods secured his first victory in the Tour Championship since his 2013 Bridgestone Invitational outing. ”I can’t believe I pulled this off,” Woods said at the trophy presentation. ”Just to be able to compete and play again this year, that’s a hell of a comeback.”
Indeed, it was one hell of a comeback. To win a tournament after multiple failed back surgeries is one thing, but the bigger picture to the story is Woods’ perseverance through all the turmoil, the pain, the setbacks. His love for the game pushed him to be in the position he is in today. Many would call it quits after even one failed back surgery. But then again, they’re not Tiger Woods.