Tiger Woods re­turns from the wilder­ness

Golf needs Woods, as much as Woods needs golf.

Zambian Business Times - - SPORTS -

Tiger Woods of the United States re­acts af­ter mak­ing a putt for ea­gle on the 18th green dur­ing the first round of the TOUR Cham­pi­onship at East Lake Golf Club on Septem­ber 20, 2018.

Tiger Woods is not his­tory. Not yet. I haven’t given up hopes of him win­ning another ma­jor. Never mind the Ry­der Cup fi­asco. I am more en­cour­aged his win the previous week.

The East Lake ti­tle was Woods’ first win in years – 1,876 days to be pre­cise. Like the mil­lions of Woods sup­port­ers, I too was thrilled by his 80th PGA Tour ti­tle – the Tour Cham­pi­onship at the his­toric East Lake Golf Club. That vic­tory came af­ter five years and four back surg­eries af­ter win­ning his 79th at the World Golf Cham­pi­onships-Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional in 2013.

At 42, there’s still more golf left in Woods. The win at East Lake showed just that. It also rekin­dled my in­ter­est in golf. Woods is the rea­son I fol­low golf. I al­ways had only a pass­ing in­ter­est in the sport. That was un­til Woods shook the golf­ing world with his prodi­gious tal­ent, draw­ing com­par­isons with the leg­endary Jack Nick­laus.

Woods lived up to that prom­ise rak­ing in PGA ti­tles. I watched him win the green jacket at Au­gusta. He won many more ma­jors, 14 in all. His red shirt be­came syn­ony­mous with win­ning as Woods be­came the best player on the planet.

When Woods looked in­vin­ci­ble, his world crashed and burned. In 2009, his mar­riage with Elin Norde­gren col­lapsed amid re­ports of a string of in­fi­deli­ties. His form dipped, and per­sis­tent back in­juries pushed him down the rank­ings – at one stage to 1,199th in the world. A re­turn to the Tour looked re­mote. I stopped watch­ing golf.

A spinal fu­sion helped Woods hit the come­back trail. When the Amer­i­can re­turned to the Tour, I didn’t pay much at­ten­tion. Must have been one of those many short-lived at­tempts, I thought. Then East Lake hap­pened. I kept re­play­ing the YouTube video on the 18th hole. The rau­cous crowd sup­port was amaz­ing.

As a per­son, Woods is not known to be en­dear­ing. He is said to be very in­dif­fer­ent to the throngs who watch him work his magic on the fair­ways. My col­leagues, who have cov­ered Woods in Dubai, say the Amer­i­can is very cold to the press as well. He’s the sort who would an­swer a ques­tion with a ques­tion, at press con­fer­ences. De­spite his aloof­ness, the crowds still love him. The sup­port at East Lake was suf­fi­cient tes­ti­mony.

The East Lake win has buoyed the hopes of ar­dent fans like me. But the Ry­der Cup set­back was a re­al­ity check. Woods still has some way to go. But will he ever re­gain the cloak of in­vin­ci­bil­ity? It is dif­fi­cult to say. At least, he’s won af­ter a long break. And he’s had a good sea­son.

Woods now trails all-time leader Sam Snead by two in ca­reer vic­to­ries on the PGA Tour. And he’s four be­hind Nick­laus in ma­jor wins. Both are within strik­ing dis­tance. If this sea­son is any in­di­ca­tion, it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore Woods owns those two records.

Golf needs Woods, as much as Woods needs golf.

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