OPINION: Woods’ comeback is now part of golf lore, but it’s not a story of redemption

By Sam Newlon, Associate Editor
On April 17, 2019

Tiger Woods captured his fifth Masters title Sunday, but his comeback is not the fight against adversity that it has been painted as in mainstream media. 

Tiger Woods is back.

Finally, millions of fans were able to imitate Woods’ iconic fist pump when he won his fifth Masters title and his 15th major championship.

But what exactly was everyone celebrating?

Was it the fact that the final round of the 2019 Masters featured some of the best golf we saw all season? Or was it that Woods played well enough to stay a step behind Francesco Molinari, who went 49 holes without shooting over par?

A New York Times article called Woods’ victory at Augusta a comeback from adversity. Was it?

The 2019 Masters was objectively one of the best and most entertaining editions of the tournament. Woods won by just one stroke at -13 while three other golfers tied for second place just one stroke behind him at -12.

Certainly, Woods’ Sunday comeback will be etched in PGA history, but adversity? Late in 2009, Woods was caught in an infidelity scandal that involved several women. The most recent incident for Woods came in 2017 when he was arrested on suspicion of a DUI.

These low-points are not examples of adversity.

In these incidents, Woods made choices to do wrong.

What Woods couldn’t control, however, were his injuries. He underwent reconstructive ACL surgery in 2008 then sprained his MCL afterward, causing him to miss three months of play. A pinched nerve in Woods’ back and a spinal fusion surgery dropped him even further down the world golf rankings. His battle with injuries can be considered adversity, but there are plenty of athletes who deal with being hurt and the rehabilitation process that comes with it.

CBS Broadcaster Jim Nantz has covered Super Bowls, Peyton Manning’s farewell and 34 Final Fours. Nantz was even broadcasting when Arnold Palmer played in his final Masters Tournament in 2004. He told The Washington Post that Woods’ win Sunday was “the best event I’ve ever covered.”

What has made Woods’ return to the forefront of golf to infatuating? Some have called Woods’ win a tale of redemption while others have called it a story of revenge.

Except it’s neither. This is a story about passion.

There is no “Tiger Woods” without golf. Professional golf and Woods are nearly synonymous, and he will remain as one of golf’s most iconic figures, especially whenever he is able to wear red on Sundays.

Why would anyone go through several surgeries, rehabilitation and subject themselves to public scrutiny and potential embarrassment from people dredging up mistakes from a decade ago like I am now?

The simple answer, the only answer, it seems, is that Woods loves the game of golf and he will probably continue playing until his body won’t let him — even with surgeries.

Even without his most recent title, Woods is a golf legend. He’s already made plenty of money from winnings and sponsorships. Based on media coverage of the 2019 Masters, Woods’ reputation even seems to be restored. So what does he have left to play for?

The answer was evident when Woods sunk a bogey putt to finally win again. Both hands flew in the air and he embraced his caddy and said, “we did it,” while smiling ear to ear.

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