Last Saturday, April 14, Woods returned with a roar by topping the 2019 Masters, further enhancing his sporting legacy. Photograph by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters
Drive Sports and Fitness

The triumph and redemption of Tiger Woods

For much of the last decade, the former American golfing icon is but a shade of his former prolific self following scandals and surgeries. But as his recent win at one of his sport’s biggest tournaments proves, a Tiger can also rise from the ashes.
Roy Luarcalua | Apr 16 2019

For a long time, there were no growls from Tiger Woods. Barely whimpers.

Hobbled by injuries and distracted by mental anxieties, Woods was but a shadow of the world’s best golfer he was touted to be. At 43 and with four back operations, he was peeking at a tiny hole in a glass window to retool his game and regain his lofty status.

And it was all that he needed to be catapulted back to global acclaim. The fallen icon has risen.

 

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Last Saturday, April 14, Woods returned with a roar by topping the 2019 Masters, further enhancing his sporting legacy. His fifth Masters title raised Tiger’s majors haul to 15: three US Opens, three British Opens, and four PGA Championships. He is just three trophies shy from the great Jack Nicklaus record. The American’s 81st PGA Tour victory also pushes him closer to the late Sam Snead’s tally of 82.

Photo by Brian Snyder, Reuters

Fall from grace

In the eyes of many, this feat somehow partly absolves Woods of the sins he committed against his wife Elin Nordegren—and society—some years back.

No wonder, he let loose pent-up emotions when he holed out with a bogey putt to win this year’s Masters by one stroke. He pumped his fist, let out a celebratory shout, and scooped up his son Charley. He then embraced his mother Kultida and daughter Sam, and hugged his caddie Joe LaCava.

For all his frailties—philandering, reckless driving, and an injury-induced addiction to painkillers—Woods can still be a gentle soul. Obviously, he remembers the days when he can do no wrong, on and off the tees. He held the top golf ranking for a long time (683 weeks overall), and was the world’s richest, most recognizable sportsman.

Maybe he still is.

According to CBS, the Masters’ final round was its highest-rated golf broadcast in 34 years.

On Twitter, the final round generated about 2.5 million tweets, only 400,000 of which were not about Woods. US president Donald Trump and former commander-in-chief Barack Obama as well as sports superstars like Steph Curry, Tom Brady, and Serena Williams were among those who tweeted about the golfer.

Such massive show of adulation and support were ordinary during Woods’s reign as world No. 1, but is phenomenal considering the downward spiral his career took he admitted infidelity to his wife in 2010. With sheer will and his latent talent, he regained top ranking in March 2013 and held it until May 2014. Nagging back pains, however, forced his career to take an even steeper plunge.

In April 2017, Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery. Returning to competitive golf seemed impossible for the former child protégé, who at 3 years old was already muttering about beating Nicklaus. A month later from his operation, the Stanford standout was arrested, suspected for driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty for the lesser offense of reckless driving, perhaps to do away with suspicions that he was taking painkillers and sleeping tablets that time.

Photo by Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Competing in only one tournament from August 2015 to January 2018, he eventually dropped out of the world’s top 1,000. Yup, no typo error there.

While his body may have been ravaged by injuries, however, Woods’s fighting spirit remained. He persevered to get his swing back, finding a glimmer of hope when he topped the Tour Championship September of last year. A brief taste of the lead and an eventual sixth place finish in the 2018 British Open put Woods back in the Masters contenders’ radar, but he was just a blip, no longer a mole.

Until he proved skeptics wrong.

The champion’s next tournament, however, will be different altogether. Jumping to number 6 in the ranking, the whole world, led by his throng of admirers and haters, will be following his swings again.

Back on the prowl at his lair, Tiger Woods’s roars are bound to get even louder.