Prior to Sunday, Tiger Woods had not won a major since the US Open in June of 2008. He had not won the green jacket since 2005. Woods’ win Sunday at Augusta marked the end of the longest winless streak between Masters victories in the tournament’s history. Tiger pulled off a win in the Tour Championship last year, but it’s yesterday’s victory that truly completes the comeback.
After winning 14 majors, over 70 PGA Tour events, and spending 683 weeks as the world’s top-ranked golfer, Woods’ downfall began on an early November morning in 2009. Just days after being accused of having an affair, Woods’ Cadillac Escalade crashed just outside his home in Jupiter, Florida. Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, chased the vehicle down and busted out the windows, in what she says was an attempt to rescue her husband. Woods was admitted into the hospital with minor injuries and shortly released. In the ensuing weeks, he was accused of multiple affairs, stemming from Australia to Los Angeles with several different women. And so the downward spiral began.
As a result of his highly-publicized infidelity, Woods was forced to issue an apology, and decided to take what he called an “indefinite break” in December 2009 in order to focus on “being a better husband, father, and person.” Between this time and the initial crash a few weeks earlier, Gatorade, Gillette, and Accenture Ltd. all dropped endorsements with Woods. Later, General Motors and AT&T would drop the star golfer. Nike famously stood by Woods, and remains with him today.
Injuries have also been a major part of Tiger’s downfall. The injuries actually began as far back as his 2008 US Open victory, in which he played with a torn ACL and stress fracture in his tibia. He also tore his Achilles during the same season. Soon after the crash and revealing of extramarital affairs in 2009, Woods suffered an inflamed facet joint in early 2010. A year later, he withdrew from the 2011 Players Championship due to knee and achilles injuries. The same achilles injury continued to plague him throughout the rest of 2011, as well as 2012. Then came the back problems. In April, 2014, he underwent the first of three back surgeries, all spanning from 2014-2017. Despite the other injuries in his career, Woods wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to play after the back issues appeared. He constantly struggled through pain, couldn’t swing a club, and struggled to complete simple, everyday tasks.
Between the 2009 crash and now, he dropped well-outside the top 1,000 in the world rankings, and missed the cut and or withdrew more times than he ever had before. He lost millions in sponsorship dollars, suffered debilitating injuries, endured a divorce, and became almost irrelevant on the course. Not to mention his DUI arrest in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, he missed the cut or withdrew 22.6% of the time. However, the past year and a half have been very encouraging for the former top golfer. Since the start of 2018, Woods has finished in the top 25 in 17 of 24 events, in the top 10 ten times, and has two victories — last year’s Players Championship and this year’s Masters. Perhaps more importantly, he has missed the cut only twice, and has not withdrawn in a PGA event during that time period. Tiger finally appears to be healthy, and better yet, he’s competitive again.
There’s no question that Tiger Woods seems to finally be overcoming his decade-long spiral. He’s playing good golf, he’s competitive, and fans are thrilled with his reemergence. He also seems in a good place personally. The past 18 months have been great for Tiger, and in turn great for the sport. Many considered Tiger’s return to health a comeback. Many considered last year’s Players Championship a comeback. For those more skeptical though, Woods’ masterful performance this past weekend should be enough to prove that Tiger truly is back. He’s back up to 6th in the Official World Golf Rankings, and he’s striking the ball better than he has in years. From the tee, to irons, to the greens, Tiger’s 2019 Masters performance was one for the ages.
Many of Tiger’s wounds and setbacks have been self-inflicted. Many have been out of his control. However, these struggles have transformed Woods from a cocky, larger-than-life figure to a more thoughtful, appreciative, and humble champion. He may never win another major again. He may never catch Jack Nicklaus, and he may not pass Sam Snead on the all-time PGA wins list. However, there is one thing that’s for sure, and that’s that you can’t help but root for the comeback.
*Stats and Info From tigerwoods.com, ESPN.com, Golf Monthly, thegolfnewsnet.com, PGATour.com, and OWGR.com