By SEAN BURMINGHAM
After a year and a half of dealing with severe back injuries, and a fourth surgery hoping to recover just enough to play with his kids, Tiger Woods had his first victory in over five years last Sunday. His eightieth career win on the PGA Tour became a comeback story like no other.
After several nail biting near-misses earlier in the season, he came to play, showing signs of his old self on day one at the East Lake Golf Club. Even a few misses early on Sunday could not keep him from the win, hitting one over par for the day and 11 under par overall securing the win over Billy Horschel by just two strokes. His eightieth win means that Woods is just two wins away from Sam Snead’s record.
“Maybe I will keep chipping at that number,” says Woods, “and maybe surpass it.”
“I just can’t believe I pulled this off,” said Woods as fans and fanatics swarmed him towards the eighteenth green and the final strokes that sealed his victory for the first time in half a decade.
He talked with reporters from People magazine about this wins meaning as Woods had faced many personal struggles and challenges in the time since his last victory, including a divorce from his then wife Elin Nordegren, and many physical struggles with his health, having torn his ACL and undergone several surgeries.
David L. Cook, a sports psychologist, talked about Woods to the New York Times. He remarked that Woods is, “one of the most mentally tough golfers of all time.” Woods’ upbringing with his Green Beret father influenced Tiger to want to be known as mentally tough. Some of that toughness faded as Woods began hugging all the people who had supported him through the 18 holes including his caddy, his girlfriend, and some of his competitors. Everyone was proud of the progress Woods has made this year. He entered the year ranked 1,199. He entered this Tour Championship ranked 21.
Woods remained humble when asked if this was the greatest comeback in sports recalling the 1950 US Open and Ben Hogan who won only 16 months after being in a horrific car accident with a Greyhound bus. Hogan would go on to win six of eight championships. This raised the question of how much does Woods have left in the tank. One fan was excited because most believe Woods has four or five good years left at the top level of golf.
Tiger’s win had snowballing impacts in other areas as well. NBC recorded its highest telecast rating of a non-major golf championship. It was also the highest rated telecast of the FedExCup Playoffs since its inception. This was up 206% since last year. NBC’s President for Golf, Mike McCarly, said that, “Woods’ win at the Tour Championship was an unforgettable event in golf.”