It has been 5 years since Tiger Woods won a golf tournament. Actually just over 5 years. His last victory came on August 4th, 2012 in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. That’s 1,876 days between wins. There have been 239 PGA Tour events in that time and 119 different winners have raised a trophy.
Sunday, September 23rd, 2018, Woods changed all that and the victory brought him to tears. Why the outpouring of emotion? Look at what occurred, in Tiger’s life, just before and during the victory drought.
That win in August of 2012 was Woods’ 79th career PGA Tour win. He trailed all-time winner Sam Snead by just 3 victories. He appeared certain to blow past Snead and set a mark that might never be challenged. Still, there were signs that Tiger’s game was not what it had been.
Woods had not won a major championship since 2008. In the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he birdied the 18th hole to tie Rocco Mediate. They remained tied at the end of an 18 hole playoff held the following day. Tiger won in sudden death. But, his health was an issue. Two days after the tournament concluded, Tiger had knee surgery. He was out for the remainder of the year.
In November of 2009, the story of Woods’ infidelity broke and the events surrounding that were a major embarrassment for the World’s Greatest Golfer. Tiger did not win a tournament in 2010 or 2011. In 2012 he seemed to get his game back and won 3 times on The Tour. That resurgence carried him to 5 Tour victories in 2013.
Then disaster struck. In March of 2014 Woods has back surgery. He played 7 PGA tournaments that year missed the cut in 2 and withdrew from 2. His best finish? Tied for 25th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. After missing the cut in the PGA Championship Woods announced he will take the remainder of the year off to rest. He misses the Ryder Cup.
In 2015 Tiger plays in 11 Tour tournaments, missing the cut in 4 of them. Including 3 straight major championships. He scores his worst round as a professional with an 85 at The Memorial. Late in 2015 Tiger has 2 more surgeries on his back. He misses the entire 2016 season recovering.
Woods plays in 1 PGA event during 2017, the Farmers Insurance Open. He misses the cut. In April of that year, he has his 4th back surgery. Bones are fused in his lower back to strengthen the spine.
Tiger Woods in 2018
This year Woods started at the Farmers Insurance Open and finished tied for 23rd. His next tournament, the Genesis Open, he misses the cut. Woods plays The Masters and posts a score of 1 over par for 4 rounds. Good enough to earn a tie for 32nd place. The next major, The U.S. Open, he again misses the cut. In the Open Championship (formerly the British Open) Woods puts 4 competitive rounds together and earns a tie for 6th place at 5 under par.
In the PGA Championship, the final major of the year, Woods starts with a round of even par 70. Then cores of 66, 66, and 64 pushing him to 14 under par. Would Tiger win his 15th major victory and move to within 3 of Jack Nicklaus total of 18 major wins? Not to be. Brooks Koepka backs up his 2nd round 63 with two rounds of 66 to finish on top at 16 under par.
Late Drama at the Tour Championship
In the final PGA tournament of 2018, Tiger held a 3 shot lead going into the last round of the Tour Championship. On the 14th tee, he led by 4 shots over the leader in the clubhouse, Billy Horschel. Tiger bogeyed the 15th. Back to the same 3 stroke advantage, he started the round with, no problem. Tiger bogeyed the 16th. The lead dropped to 2 strokes with 2 holes to play.
The 17th hole at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia is a 430 Yard Par 4. Tiger had parred the hole on each of the first 3 rounds. Off the tee, he drove into the rough. Caught a terrible lie sitting in the bottom of a divot. His second shot just missed the green. But two putts later he only needed bogey on the finishing hole, an easy par 5, to seal the victory.
Victory for Tiger Woods
A booming drive of the 18th tee left Woods in perfect position, far down the fairway. Going for the green in 2, his second shot found the deep greenside bunker. As he stepped into the trap only his head was visible to the camera on the far side of the green. His blast from the bunker was solidly hit and came to rest approximately 8 feet from the hole.
In the old days, Woods would likely have drained the birdie putt to put a final signature on the win. His lag putt left a tap in to secure the victory.
The Television Announcers
Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks from NBC hailed Woods’ victory as the greatest comeback in the history of sports. Well, they may have been caught up in the emotion of fans reaction to Tiger’s improbable win. If he passes Snead’s win total, that may be an appropriate accolade to lay at Wood’s feet. Should he pass Nicklaus’ as the all-time major’s winner, certainly the feat would be hailed as the greatest.
Can’t wait for next year’s PGA opener.