From telling 18-time major winner, Jack Nicklaus ”I am done!” in 2017, Tiger Woods’ success was the story of the day again on a sunny Sunday. His victory at the PGA Masters ensured he would put on the Green Jacket again, and would shout victoriously again. And this time, more resoundingly and heartfelt, considering what he’s been through recently.
It was beyond just swinging a club and making holes at first hits, it was about a man whom many thought was down, downtrodden and out, but no! It was just his form, never his class!
Arguably the best the game of golf has seen in history, Woods’ blistering and glittering start to a professional life was well documented. He was all over the press in the late 90s and early 2000s for his successive successes. He has stayed the longest on number 1 in PGA rankings and stands just at second in PGA and European tours’ victories. He had seen it all and enjoyed his game before his career went on a decline; a sharp fall that saw him go as low as 1,199 on rankings in November 2017.
Woods was frustrated and understandably, he felt ashamed of his status then. From being the cynosure of all eyes, a consistent winner of prizes to being an average comedian’s line of humour, was too bitter to swallow for ‘the Tiger’. In the words of 1993 US PGA winner, Paul Azinger, ”the worst emotion anyone can feel is shame and he had a real dose of it. From elite athlete to the butt of the late-night TV joke. He’s turned it all around,” and he did in style.
Having four back surgeries meant thoughts of retirement penetrated easily through one of the greatest sportsmen of all time. But those jokes would never go for free. There was palpable and well recorded class. Its permanence was militated against by admissions of infidelity, a marriage breakdown and nasty injuries in 2009. All these caused Woods to take an ‘indefinite’ break from a game that had brought him fame, money and fulfilment, but he wasn’t completely fulfilled. He needed to prove a point.
Almost a decade since the day he decided to quit golf for some time, and having passed through some of the most difficult moments ever seen of any great sportsman, his return has been patient, steady but very assuring. Last year, he had a major rise and showed the world there is still some power in his biceps, and great focus in his eyes.
He said after his victory at the Augusta Islands, “I think the kids are starting to understand how much the game means to me,”
“Prior to the comeback they only knew golf caused me a lot of pain. If I tried to swing a club I’d be on the ground in pain, so that’s basically all they remember.
“To come back here and play as well as I did has meant so much to me and my family – this tournament, and to have everyone here is something I’ll never forget.
“It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired. Last year I was just lucky to be playing again, the previous dinner I was really struggling, missed a couple of years of this great tournament and to now be the champion… it’s unreal for me to experience this.
“I couldn’t be more happy and excited, I’m kind of at a loss for words. To have my kids there, it’s come full circle. My dad was here in ’97 and now I’m the dad with two kids there.”
Woods, now sixth in the world, 1,193 places up from where he was less than 2 years ago feels particularly elated about showing his children who the real Tiger is.
“We’re creating new memories for them and it’s just very special,” he said.
“I was very lucky to be given another chance to do something that I love to do. I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple of years ago.
“I couldn’t lay down, I couldn’t do much of anything. I had the procedure which gave me a chance of having a normal life.
“All of a sudden I realised I could swing a club again. I felt if I could somehow piece this together I still had the hands to do it. The body is not the same but I still had good hands.
“To have the opportunity to come back like this, you know it’s probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure. It’s got to be right up there, with all the things I’ve battled through.”
It took the world many years to see this great man again, and according to many of his backroom staff and coaching crew, at 43, he is a more patient and better person. It was a tough phase that would change a man and remind the world that in life, ”form is temporary, and class is permanent.”