Friday 23 August 2019

The greatest comeback since Muhammad Ali

Tiger Woods bags remarkable success as he wins Masters 11 years after last major

Burning bright: US golfer Tiger Woods celebrates with his green jacket and trophy after winning the 2019 Masters. Photo: Reuters
Burning bright: US golfer Tiger Woods celebrates with his green jacket and trophy after winning the 2019 Masters. Photo: Reuters

Paul Hayward in Augusta

Tiger Woods staged one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history by winning the Masters yesterday, 11 years after his last major golf championship victory and 14 years after he last wore the traditional green jacket.

The normally staid Augusta National Club has never witnessed such emotional scenes.

After Woods tapped in a putt on the 18th green to win by a shot he strode into the arms of his children, daughter Sam and son Charlie, mother Kultida and partner Erica Herman as the crowd chanted, "Tiger, Tiger".

Woods' comeback will be compared with Muhammad Ali returning from three years in exile to win the heavyweight boxing championship or Ben Hogan's return to the pinnacle of golf after a car crash nearly killed him in 1949.

Most of us considered it impossible for Woods to win another major and had begun to see him as a faintly tragic figure until he won a tournament in Atlanta last autumn.

As thunderstorms bore down on America's most exclusive golf club, Woods marched up the final fairway to end a 3,955-day wait for a victory in one of the game's four defining tournaments. In between, chaos in his personal life, four back operations and a calamitous loss of form led many to believe he was finished at this level.

Two years ago Woods needed a "nerve block" injection just to attend the Champions' Dinner at the Augusta National Club.

After winning with a 13-under-par score, Woods said: "I was trying to plod my way round the golf course all day.

"Then all of a sudden I had the lead coming up 18 and I was trying to make a five. When I tapped the putt in on 18 I don't know what happened but I remember screaming.

"It's overwhelming just because of what's transpired. Last year I was just very lucky to be playing again.

"Twenty two years [since his first Masters win] is a long time.

"My mum was here in '97 too so I just couldn't be happier. This was one of the hardest I've ever had to win.

"It's come full circle. My [late] dad [Earl] was here in 97 and now I'm the dad with two kids here."

Woods has now won 15 majors - three behind Jack Nicklaus's record.

Britain's three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo called it "the greatest scene in golf ever".

Barack Obama was among a host of leading figures to pay tribute to the extraordinary comeback. "To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination," the golf-loving former US president said. Twenty-three time tennis Grand Slam winner Serena Williams wrote on Twitter: "I am literally in tears watching @TigerWoods this is Greatness like no other."

Irish Independent

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