The NBA and NHL playoffs are underway this week and will keep the sports world occupied until the early summer.
But it was not a series opener or even a team sport that captivated the world over the weekend. It was Tiger Woods who, after 11 years out of the major winning circle but very much in the spotlight, clawed back from two-strokes down entering the final day of the Masters to earn his 15th Major Championship.
Sunday’s win in Augusta was his first Majors victory since he came from behind in the final round to catch Rocco Mediate at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego in 2008. Woods would finish off Mediate in sudden-death after an 18-hole playoff.
Just over a year after defeating Mediate and winning his 14th Major Championship came a swift and decisive fall from grace for Woods. A National Esquire story published in Nov. of 2009 revealed an affair between Woods and a New York nightclub employee. Days later, Woods was involved in a suspicious motor vehicle accident just outside his home in Florida after two in the morning.
The hits just kept on coming when a shockingly high number of women came forward and alleged a past affair with the world’s number one golfer.
Despite taking a hiatus from the game of golf to work on his marriage, his wife Elin ultimately divorced Woods in early 2010. As the reported affairs and their details continued to emerge, Woods quickly lost a number of high-profile endorsements despite recently being named Athlete of the Decade by the Associated Press.
In January, Woods checked into a sex rehabilitation center in Mississippi before he finally returned to the course for the Masters in April of 2010. The next eight years would feature a number of back surgeries and ailments. He would fall all the way to 1,119 in the world rankings in 2017 around the time he was found under the influence and asleep behind the wheel of his car with the engine running.
Things were looking up for Woods in 2018 as he finished second in the PGA Championship and tied for sixth at The Open. He would then earn his first tournament victory in nearly five years when he prevailed in the Tour Championship, boosting him back up to 13 in the world rankings.
All roads led to his ultimate redemption in Sunday’s historic Masters win to earn his fifth green jacket in his illustrious career. Many were uncertain if Woods would ever win another Major Championship after everything that went on to drastically change his life over the last decade.
Woods has undoubtedly committed a number of mistakes in his life, but you cannot say he has not paid dearly for them. He went from one of the most respected athletes of his time to social outcast in a matter of days at the end of 2009, but his determination to get back on top has never wavered.
One thing is certain through it all: success for Tiger Woods translates to success for the game of golf. He is now three Major Championships short of tying Jack Nicklaus for most ever by a single golfer.
After Woods prevailed at Pebble Beach in 2008, the record for most Majors ever appeared to be a forgone conclusion. Soon after the downfall, it seemed like he would be lucky to win one more Major.
Now, with the glory of the 2019 Masters in his rearview mirror, is the prolific record held by Nicklaus suddenly back in play for Tiger?
While the cheating scandals certainly may have done a number on Woods when he attempted his return to golf, it was the injuries that ultimately prolonged the elusive 15th Major Championship in recent years. He has been healthy enough of late to contend in three straight Major tournaments, so his prospects currently appear promising.
He is currently number six in the world after entering the Masters ranked 12th. His next shot at another Major will take place at the PGA Championship in May.
The weekend was perfectly summed up with a shot of Woods embracing his son after the victory, similar to a shot he took with his late father after winning his first Masters 22 years ago. It was a reminder of the two careers the world has watched from possibly the best golfer to ever hit the links: the Tiger before and the Tiger after.
Pre-2009 was a world where Woods could do no wrong. He was perfect in every sense of the word to the outside eye and you would have been hard pressed to find anyone with a negative opinion.
Now, after years of seeing his named dragged through the mud as a result of his shortcomings off of the course, he appears to have finally rekindled the magic that originally made him a legend.