It had been 1,876 days since his last victory. 239 PGA Tour events had been played, with 119 different winners. He had undergone four back surgeries since the last time he hoisted a trophy.
But on Sunday at East Lake Golf Club, Tiger Woods sank a putt for par on 18, calmly picked up his ball, and then lifted his hands into the air in triumph as the crowd around the green erupted into pandemonium. For the first time since 2013, Tiger Woods had won a PGA Tour tournament.
The victory was Tiger’s 80th career PGA Tour win- just two shy of the record held by Sam Snead. Woods started off hot in the first round on Thursday, jumping to the top of the leaderboard after shooting a 65. He remained tied for first after 36 holes, then pulled out to a commanding lead after shooting a 65 again on Saturday.
Tiger took a three-shot advantage into Sunday’s final round. He didn’t dominate in the final 18 holes; he bogeyed three times and birdied twice, finishing one over par at 71. What he did do, however, was play consistent, precision golf in a round in which many of his competitors struggled.
It’s been a long road back to the top for 42-year-old Woods. He essentially was out of golf for the last two years. He played just three tournaments during that time as he continued to struggle with back and nerve pain. And it was just 18 months ago that he underwent spinal fusion surgery and doubted that he would ever play golf again.
In addition to his injury problems, Woods faced minor legal trouble in May of 2017 when he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. It did not turn into nearly as big a deal as the infamous 2009 incident that we all remember, but it was yet another sign that pointed to what we thought would be the sun setting on the Tiger Woods era of golf.
When he stepped into the tee box for the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open in January, he was ranked 656th in the world. Now, he is ranked 13th in the world and is the favorite to win the 2019 Masters. He’ll compete again next weekend on the U.S. team at the Ryder Cup.
There is no denying that we may never again see the greatness of the Tiger Woods of the early-2000’s. It’s obvious that four back surgeries have brought with them considerable regression. However, the fact that he even was able to compete again, much less win, is nothing short of magical, considering the obstacles he’s faced. It’s the comeback we’ve all been rooting for.