By Christopher D’Alessandro
The golf world welcomed back this week one of its most iconic figures Tiger Woods to the sport he dominated for years. The world has been waiting for over one year for his return to the game loved by so many people around the globe. There are so many unanswered questions which brings intrigue to his arrival back to the Tour. Will he be able to overcome the physical and mental issues he has had on and off the golf course? Is he healthy? Will his golf be good enough to dominate again or even just be competitive? Will Nike continue to embrace him?
Some of these questions have begun to be answered with his return to the PGA Tour in the Bahamas this month. His return started with some signs of brilliance and some signs of rustiness with his initial two rounds of 73 and 65 but way too early to give us anything other than the excitement of having him back. He had been building anticipation for golf fans over the past several months with several announcements around the timing of his arrival back to the golf course. Now we wait to see if his arrival back will be sustained.
In order for us to truly appreciate why the public’s expectation is so high for his return, let’s take a quick look at some of his unbelievable career highlights which defined the legend of Tiger Woods (golfchannel.com):
- Tiger has played in 327 PGA events, making 300 cuts, and winning 79 of the tournaments, including 14 majors which is second only to the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.
- He has career earnings on the Tour of $110,061,012.
- Woods won the season-long Fed Ex Cup twice and was in the top 3 in four of the nine years of eligibility for the Cup.
- He won 5 straight PGA starts three different times.
- His 79 wins are 67 more than any player age 40 or younger.
- He was Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year twice; no other person has done this.
- Tiger completed the career grand slam by winning all four of the Majors by age 24.
- Woods is the only player to win the US Junior Amateur, US Amateur, and the US Open. He won each of these prestigious tournaments three times.
- He won the PGA scoring average 9 different times. No one else has won this more than 5 times (only two players did that).
Tiger has also impacted the game in other ways. He has brought lots of money to golf by seeing average winnings over the years he has played. In 1985 the top golfer made $542,321 that year. By 2010, 157 players earned more than $500,000 and 90 made more than $1,000,000 (golf-newz.com). Woods help to cause the globalization of golf with popularity skyrocketing around the world. He put pressure on all other golfers by forcing them to get better and stronger to compete and forced manufacturers to improve technology so other players can compete with him. Much like Arnold Palmer before him, Tiger brought companies and sponsorship money to the sport. He also brought interest to golf so that athletes starting playing the sport, golf courses expanded around the world, and other players gained benefit from endorsement deals.
Tiger Woods’ dominance over the sport ran from 1999 to 2011 and again in 2013 before he experienced numerous serious injuries, a sex scandal, and issues with his ex-wife. His physical injuries from 2002 to 2015 included knee and back injuries requiring surgeries, a neck injury, an elbow strain, several issues with his Achilles tendons, and several pinched nerves. What is very interesting is that, although no one knows for certain what caused these injuries, they may have been the result of just what made Tiger so dominant over his sport. His intense desire to be the best in the world may have caused him to work out, hit golf balls, and live life to extremes that his body and mind could not handle.
Per nesn.com, Tiger’s caddy from 1999-2011 Steve Williams says his injury problems were ‘self-inflicted’. Williams blames his injuries on the type of gym workouts he was doing to bulk up and said he was training more like an athlete instead of a golfer. Other golfers in the sport including kids who are starting to play the game should take notice of the type of weight training, the obsessive workout programs, and the type of aggressive golf swing Tiger had developed and the impact on his body. Since his health issues and sex scandal, Tiger has been a very fragile person who has not seen success on the golf course since 2013 and has struggled with life in general.
So the questions remain: Will Tiger be able to heal his body, mind, and life to regain his PGA Tour dominance or has the lifestyle he developed as part of that process deteriorated him to the point where his 5-win 2015 year was really his swan song? For decades, we watched Tiger Woods be better than everyone else from being more talented as well as working harder than them and developing higher confidence than them all.
With PGA stars like Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day, is the Tour really in need of a re-birth of its biggest star or is it something that Tiger himself needs to put a seal on his career? Does he need to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of Major wins to validate his career?
If Tiger Woods can come back to some type of resemblance of his past self, he has a chance to be labeled not only the best golfer ever, but maybe the best athlete ever. He will need courage, fortitude, forgiveness, strong mental will, emotional cleansing, and luck to accomplish a Tiger-like come back. Stay tuned!!