On April, 14th 1997, Tiger Woods at twenty-one years old won his first Masters. Nearly 22 years later, this past Sunday, April 14th, 2019 he did it for the fifth time, his 15th major, and 5th Masters Championship. Widely considered the most significant of the 4 major tournaments, Woods had gone nearly 11 years without a major win. This win was not just any victory, it was the culmination of one of the greatest comeback stories in sports.
Separating the Professional from the Personal
In the past eleven years, Woods has undergone a lot of personal issues that have restricted his success. A year after winning the 2008 US Open he was entangled in a major sex scandal . It ended his marriage with his wife, Elin Nordegin and put a dark cloud over what had been the most dominant show of success in arguably sports history. Between 1997 and 2008 he displayed something that probably will never be done again. He averaged almost a major and a half, each year, over those 11 years.
Besides his personal life and substance issues, he has also had very bad luck with injury. In 2008 he tore his ACL while playing the US Open. Then in 2011, he withdrew from the Master, Wells Fargo Championship and the Player’s Championship. In 2012 he won his first tournament at Bay Hill since the major sex scandal that spiraled his life. Woods would continue to have injuries to his knee and back persist like when he feel to his knees at the Honda Classic in 2014 following hurting his back. In 2017, he had a spinal fusion surgery done in order to finally alleviate the issue he had been suffering from.
The surgery was considered to be successful for Woods, in 2018 Tiger showed that it indeed was and that there was hope. He finished second in the 2018 PGA Championship and then went on to win the 2018 Tour Championship. The comeback was completed by him winning the major, but should Tiger have ever had to come back? Many would argue that he brought troubles onto himself by acting recklessly outside the golf course. Those arguments have been silenced.
But the question remains, can Tiger catch Jack Nickalaus who holds 18 major championships?
It’s not going to be easy for Tiger but the composure shown this Masters Tournament by Tiger introduced a new golfer. He was not engaging with fellow golfers in his group, he was locked in.
On May 16th, Tiger will play in the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Long Island, New York. He is currently favored along with Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson to win the tournament with 10-1 odds. The field is going to be fired up after Tiger’s victory, most of today’s golfers grew up watching him and now he is the man to beat once again.
Following the PGA, there is the US Open in June which will be played at Pebble Beach. Woods has won three US Open’s in his career the last one coming in 2008. In 2000, Tiger crushed the field at Pebble Beach in the US Open winning by 15 strokes. He is favored 10-1 to win this tournament as well.
Tiger has won the PGA Championship four times the last time coming in 2007. However, in 2002 Tiger won the PGA Championship on the same course, following a dominant win at Augusta it is no surprise he would be the favorite.
Finally the last major of the year is the British Open. Not that Tiger won’t be competing in a lot of significant tournaments along the way, but the chase for Jack’s 18 major record is on. This year the British Open will be held at the Royal Portrush Course in Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951. Rory McIlroy will likely be favored as he is the hometown player along with being a favorite. However playing on the Northern Atlantic coast has proven to be nothing short of challenging to players in the past.
In major championships, experience overrides ability when conditions get rough, just how we saw Sunday at Augusta when it rained. Tiger has a great chance to keep tallying majors up as he has showed that he is able to still compete and win, and for the world of golf and its fans: nothing could be more exciting than watching Tiger try to finish the chase to 19.
Carry right on, Tiger.