Tiger Woods completed one of sport’s greatest comebacks. Can he do it again?
Tiger Woods’ career has suffered yet another significant setback after a car accident on Tuesday left him with moderate to critical injuries, according to Los Angeles County spokesperson Henry Narvez.
The 15-time major champion was in the process of recovering from the fifth back surgery of his career, which he underwent in January after experiencing “discomfort” whilst playing at the PNC Championship in December.
According to Golf Digest, Woods suffered “multiple leg injuries” and was in surgery following the accident. Golf Digest quoted Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg with the update.
However, the 45-year-old is accustomed to overcoming adversity; in 2019, he won the Masters for the fifth time, just two years after undergoing a spinal fusion, an achievement which is widely considered one of sport’s greatest comebacks.
Woods turned professional in 1996 and his talent and charisma meant he soon transcended golf and became a global icon. He won 14 majors in just 11 years and, after winning the US Open in 2008, looked set to stroll past the all-time record of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus.
But it wouldn’t be a subsequent knee surgery that derailed his career, instead it was transgressions in his personal life — revealed to the media and public in 2009 as the result of another car crash — that would ultimately put a halt to his golf.
Woods admitted to infidelities and went to stay at a Mississippi addiction clinic, all of which led a number of sponsors, including Gillette, Accenture and AT&T, to cut ties with the golfer as he announced an “indefinite” break from golf.
Unsurprisingly, Woods’ game on the course suffered and he tried everything from changing coaches and caddies to changing his swing in an attempt to recapture some of his old form. After managing to return to No. 1 in the world, injuries began to take their toll on his body.
Four back surgeries, including the aforementioned spinal fusion, left him in so much pain that he struggled to get out of bed and play with his children. In the midst of all the operations and failed comebacks to the sport, there was also the arrest on a DUI charge in 2017 and an addiction to painkillers used to treat his back.
When Woods’ world ranking plummeted outside 1,100, even his most ardent fans would have struggled to dream up what happened next.
After briefly leading the British Open in 2018, Woods went on to finish second at the US PGA Championship the following month — but he wouldn’t have to wait long for a first PGA Tour win since 2013.
At the season-ending TOUR Championship in Atlanta, Woods was followed to victory down the 18th fairway by what felt like the entire state of Georgia in what immediately became one of golf’s most iconic images.
Just months later, Woods completed the most improbable of comebacks by winning the 2019 Masters to secure his first major win for 11 years.
At Augusta a year before his win, Woods was asked about his return to the sport. His answer now seems more poignant than ever.
“One of the greatest comebacks in all of sport is the gentleman who won here, Mr. [Ben] Hogan,” he told CNN’s Don Riddell in a press conference. “I mean, he got hit by a bus and came back and won major championships.
“The pain he had to endure, the things he had to do just to play: the wrapping of the leg, all the hot tubs, just how hard it was for him to walk period and he ended up walking 36 holes and winning the US Open. That’s one of the greatest comebacks there is and it happens to be in our sport.”