When I think about hard times in my life, the one thing that I’m often grateful for is the fact that I can experience setbacks within my private life and they aren’t broadcast for the entire world. Sure, the people who are close to me often know what’s going on, but those setbacks typically don’t become fodder for the gossip mill. TMZ isn’t reporting on my failures constantly. I can leave my house without wondering what the next media report is going to say. This, however, is what often happens to celebrities, and it is exactly what happened to Tiger Woods back in 2009. I won’t get into all the details because it’s certainly not news at this point, but Tiger Woods had the world by the tail, only to see it all come crashing as a result of a sex scandal.
The key with any setback is to learn from your mistakes and attempt to put one foot in front of the other. It took Woods some time, but he eventually made it back to the sport that he loved. And today, Tiger Woods showed the world exactly what he is made of by winning the Masters in Augusta. I can only imagine how Woods felt when he realized that he had won. This can only be described as one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. And I don’t say that lightly. Tiger Woods has been through a lot over the last ten years, which makes this comeback also extremely unbelievable.
Taking a two-shot lead with a birdie on the 16th hole at Augusta National, Woods was the focused player that we all remember him to be. Of course, after a series of injuries and personal problems over the last few years, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that he hadn’t been playing as well as he used to. That said, many didn’t believe that he would return to play at such a high level ever again. But on Sunday afternoon, he put all that negativity to rest as he earned his fifth green jacket. As most of you know, it has been 14 years since his last green jacket, and 11 years since his last major victory. Woods also became the oldest Masters winner since Jack Nicklaus in 1986.
For everyone who did doubt Woods’ ability to close the way that he used to, all of that came to an end with his tee shot at the par-3 16th. As his ball rolled slowly toward the hole, he mouthed “come on, come on” over and over again. It wasn’t an ace, but it was a tap-in birdie from a few feet, which was enough to send the crowd into quite the frenzy. His closest fans included his mother, his son and daughter, and Michael Phelps who watched anxiously. Can you blame him? Think about the headlines if Woods didn’t end up winning the Masters. Think about the kind of doubt that Woods would have been feeling on his trip home. Woods needed this victory, but so did the rest of us who have ever felt like they couldn’t make it through any kind of adversity.
While I love a winner, especially in an underdog situation, I don’t think that the rest of the media feels that way.
With a birdie at the 15th hole, it looked as if Woods just might write one of the great comeback stories in sports, moving to 13 under and taking the lead outright with three holes to play. Dustin Johnson had a chance to tie him on 18 but missed his birdie putt. For a moment there was a possibility of a long shot winner, but Patrick Cantley quickly coughed up the lead that he had taken with a bogey at 16. Then Molinari sent his tee shot at 12 straight into the water and finally a double-bogey dropped him into second place.
Woods appeared to be struggling a bit on 11, with his ball ending up just behind pine trees, while the leader, Francesco Molinari, and Tony Finau found the fairway. Woods’s putt went wide and he managed a par to stay at 11 under. Molinari managed par, too, staying at 13 under. Up ahead on 12, Ian Poulter, who was sharing second place with Woods at 11 under, sent his shots into the water, which meant there was some movement on the leader board.
While I won’t give you play-by-play for the entire weekend, I think you can see just how intense the play was. Which adds to the idea of how glorious this come back really is. Woods is 43 years of age, and while that doesn’t necessarily make him old, it does put him into an aging category of athletes. In addition to that, he has had four knee surgeries and four back surgeries. Again, this might not seem like a big deal, but when you throw the word athlete into the mix, it starts to become worrisome. Think about NBA players who have more than one knee surgery – their career is as good as done. Perhaps the idea that golf isn’t as physical might be part of the reason that Woods is able to continue playing?
Regardless, Woods set out knowing that this might not end well for him, but he had a positive attitude nonetheless:
“This is going to be different. Normally we get to sleep in on Sundays if we play well but [Sunday] will be an earlyTiger Woods
wake upcall, get the body going, get the mind ready. This’ll be a little bit different going off two tees, threesomes. I’ll probably wake up around 4 or 3:45ish and start the process of getting this body ready.”
One last thing I’d like to point out is the fact that Woods dug deep into his closet and pulled out his old red mock turtleneck. Why exactly? I think the mental injuries far outweigh the physical ones for Wood. When I say mental, I’m not suggesting necessarily a mental health condition. Simply suggesting that people got into his head over the years. I know what it’s like to feel like you can’t do something. We are all faced with challenging times in life, and sometimes even the smallest setbacks can make us feel like a failure. So when in doubt, pull out your favorite shirt from 2005 and maybe it will be enough to take you back to that place. Maybe it contains the confidence that you need to show the world your full potential.
Or maybe Woods finally realized what has been in him all along. I can only imagine how it must have felt for Woods when he realized that he was going home with another green jacket. Getting to hear the roar of the crowd one more time, knowing that they are all there to support you and are happy for your success. Even if Woods never plays golf professionally again in his life, he can go home proud knowing that he went the distance and found himself again.