It was August of 1997 when I sat in my living room and watched Tiger Woods put on that coveted green jacket. Tiger had just won his first major by a whopping 12 strokes. I would forever equate the Masters and Augusta, Georgia with that iconic moment.
Back then, Woods was a 21-year-old superstar with a wholesome image and a trove of fans. I was one of those early fans. To me, what stood out most about Tiger Woods was his aggressive style and intense focus. Off the golf course, Woods seemed different from the other golfers. He was charismatic, multicultural and young. Most of all, Woods had star power. When Woods played, people watched.
For this reason, a Tiger Woods comeback would be great for golf. Yes, Woods has shown some promising performances since his return to competition in the Hero World Challenge last November in Albany, Bahamas. However, I think a true comeback would be no less than Tiger breaking Sam Snead’s long standing record of 82 PGA Tour wins. This would bring Tiger full circle, breaking records as he did when he first put on that green jacket.
By those standards, Tiger hasn’t officially made his comeback. However, based on his performance over the last year and a half Tiger has the momentum going in his favor. Here’s a look back at Tiger’s journey so far.
Career Threatening Injuries
A comeback journey always starts with a fall. For Tiger, the fall included a handful of major injuries. In fact, Tiger is no stranger to spending a significant amount of time on the sidelines due to these injuries. Tiger’s back issues are as infamous as Kobe Bryant’s leg injuries. However, Tiger has also had a series of other health-related issues that have prevented him from participating in the sport. Here is a list of some of Tiger’s major medical hurdles.
- December 2002 – Tiger has surgery to remove fluid from his anterior cruciate ligament on his left knee. This surgery sidelined Tiger from the sport for weeks.
- April 2008 – Tiger has another major surgery, arthroscopic surgery, to repair cartilage damage on his left knee. During this time, Tiger also revealed that he had some stress fractures on his left tibia.
- May 2010 – Tiger is diagnosed with an inflamed facet joint in the neck. Tiger himself admits to having played with a bad neck for some time.
- August 2014 – Tiger withdraws from a major tournament, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational citing he had lower back pain. This is where Tiger’s back problems begin.
- February 2015 – Tiger walks off the tournament citing a lower back injury. His medical prognosis reveals that Tiger’s glutes keep shutting off and won’t activate. This impacts his lower back.
- September 2015 – Tiger has a microdiscectomy surgery to remove a disk fragment that had been pinching his nerve.
Tiger had a series of other surgeries that took a toll on his body and, thus, overall performance. Tiger’s poor medical history was enough to make him fear even sitting in a golf cart and watching his colleagues play during the President’s Cup. He claimed that the bumps from the golf carts gave him unbearable pain.
Tiger’s Personal Demons
Tiger’s fall also included scandals outside the golf course. By now we are all well aware of Tiger’s marital discord and sexual addiction. However, Tiger’s more recent scandal reveals the destructiveness of his back injury.
In 2017, Tiger was arrested after falling asleep at the wheel. Tiger was hit with a DUI charge, after being found with five different drugs in his system, including Xanax.
Later, Tiger revealed that no alcohol was involved in the incident. He was remorseful and admitted that he recklessly tried to treat his back injuries and insomnia with his own concoction of drugs. The incident revealed the depths of Tiger’s injury and its impact both on and off the golf course.
Just a few months later, Tiger made his return to competitive golf at The Hero World Challenge. As most expected, his return to competition was rusty. He finished in 17th place out of 18 spots.
Tiger’s next step would be the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January of 2018. He hit a major milestone by completing all four rounds of the tournament, a feat he hasn’t accomplished in nearly three years. Tiger ended with a T-23 finish. Although he never posed a real threat to the leaders or even managed to break 70, Tiger showed steady progress by simply completing each round.
Flourishing in Florida
Tiger has seen some historically remarkable moments in Florida. And 2018 was no different as he got his feet wet and battled to a 12th-place finish in the Sunshine State at the Honda Classic. It is here that Tiger also became the solo leader during a portion of round two. Essentially, this was the Tiger the golf world was accustomed to. Especially in round two, when according to CBS Sports, Tiger logged one 184 MPH shot.
Continuing his steady progress, Tiger earned a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship and a T5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Finally, at the Tour Championship last September, Tiger broke his drought and earned his first major win in five years. Overall, the 2017-2018 season was a story of steady progress for Tiger. According to Fox News, Tiger played in 18 events and finished in the top 10 seven times.
Tiger should be proud of last season’s showing. But as noted earlier, an athlete of Tiger’s caliber needs a grand slam in order to make his journey a true comeback. Earning three more PGA Tour wins in order to break Sam Snead’s PGA Tour record would fit the bill.
I predict that Tiger will accomplish this feat in 2019. Yes, the momentum he’s built from ending last season with a win at the Tour Championship is great. But the one difference maker that’ll push Tiger over Sam Snead’s record and toward a true comeback is more personal.
Tiger’s kids are now old enough to understand his profession and the intense competition it brings. Like any father, Tiger wants his children to see him breaking records and standing as a champion. Now that his children are old enough, Tiger needs to share a championship, record-breaking moment with them. Not through old ESPN clips, but in real-time. Tiger has already made huge strides in his progress, but it’s this motivation that’ll push him towards greatness again in 2019.
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