Saturday 24 August 2019

Tom Morgan: 'Woods puts years of despair behind him to reach pinnacle'


Woods’ family – daughter Sam, son Charlie, mother Kultida Woods (L) and girlfriend Erica Herman – smile as he approaches them after winning the Masters. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Woods’ family – daughter Sam, son Charlie, mother Kultida Woods (L) and girlfriend Erica Herman – smile as he approaches them after winning the Masters. Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar

Tom Morgan

It was a day that even as little as a year ago would have seemed unthinkable. Tiger Woods, undone by lurid sex scandals, a drug arrest and back injuries, had spent a decade in the wilderness.

The American had plummeted to 1,199th in the world rankings and came close to quitting as he was treated for sex addiction and was arrested at the wheel of his car with a cocktail of drugs in his system.

But last night saw him complete one of sport's most remarkable career comebacks by winning the Masters. It was a long-awaited 15th Major triumph for Woods, 11 years after he had claimed his 14th.

Woods hugged his children and mother and looked close to tears as he completed his redemption by winning the Green Jacket for a fifth time.

"Last year I was just lucky to be playing again," he said. "I just couldn't be more happy or excited. It would be up there with the hardest I've ever had to win because of what has transpired in the last few years."

The 43-year-old, who began the final round two shots behind the overnight leader Francesco Molinari, carded a two-under-par 70 to finish one shot ahead of fellow Americans Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.

It was a fairytale finish for Woods, who dominated the sport for more than a decade after winning the Masters by a record-breaking 12 shots in 1997. At the Masters in 2001 he completed the 'Tiger Slam' by becoming the first player ever to hold all four Major titles at the same time.

In his pomp, Woods was by far the most valuable brand in sport. According to Forbes, he became the first billion-dollar sportsman. Guided by his late father Earl, a special forces Green Beret in the US Army, he earned a £2m appearance fee just to play in tournaments.

However, following the 2008 US Open, his last Major title until yesterday, his life unravelled, with knee and back injuries adding to his personal despair. The scandal around his private life erupted in November 2009 when he crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree outside his Florida mansion as his then wife, Elin Nordegren, chased him with a golf club in hand.

Sordid details of Woods' affairs with a string of porn actresses, cocktail waitresses and a neighbour's daughter were published by the National Enquirer. The scandal cost him hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorship and his form plummeted as he suffered crippling back pain. He had four operations, the most recent a career-saving procedure to fuse together discs in his lower spine.

Having come close to quitting, Woods' lowest point came in May 2017 when he was arrested in Florida on charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving. Police released mugshots of him looking bleary-eyed. Toxicology reports released by the Palm Beach county sheriff's office showed Woods had several painkillers, the anxiety calmer Xanax, a sleeping pill and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system.

He was sentenced to 12 months probation but since then his health and his game have improved. He came close to winning an elusive 15th Major at last year's Open and finished runner-up to Koepka in the USPGA Championship, before securing his 80th PGA Tour victory at the 2018 Tour Championship. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Tiger by numbers - after Major No 15

Tiger Woods has won his first Major since the 2008 US Open in the 83rd Masters at Augusta National at the age of 43. Here, we delve into some of his remarkable career numbers:

3,954: Days since victory over Rocco Mediate in a US Open play-off at Torrey Pines.

81: The victory is Woods' 81st on the PGA Tour.

4: Number of back operations since March 2014.

1,199: Woods' ranking in the world in November 2017. Victory at Augusta National yesterday means he will be sixth in the updated standings.

14: Years between Woods' fourth and fifth victories in the Masters.

15: Career Major wins, second only to Jack Nicklaus' 18.

683: Weeks he has spent at world number one during his career, a record.

281: Consecutive weeks spent as the world's best golfer, which is also a record.

1997: The year of his first Major triumph, at the Masters.

5: Woods is one of five players to have won all four Major titles.

48: His score for nine holes at the age of three on the Navy Golf Course in Los Alamitos.

1: Woods is the only player to hold all four Major titles at the same time, winning the US Open, Open Championship and US PGA in 2000 and the 2001 Masters - the so-called 'Tiger Slam'.

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