The Final Whistle

Tiger Woods and his triumphant return to the top of the golf world

More stories from Jon Fortier

The Final Whistle
May 15, 2019

Tiger Woods went into the 16th hole on Sunday in Augusta, Georgia as the co-leader in the standings, then history was made. Woods would go on to birdie the 16th and 17th holes allowing him to bogey the 18th in route to his fifth Masters win. It is a story we have become all too familiar with.

It is an uplifting moment that united the world. One cannot say that about just any player in the professional sports sphere, that right is reserved to the all-time great as he bounced back from a career-altering scandal and several back surgeries to plant himself firmly at the top of the golf world.

The long journey back to the top started in 2009, when he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree. This was the aftermath of the cheating scandal that would define him for years to come. Woods admitted to having over 120 extramarital affairs during his five-year marriage to Swedish supermodel Elan Nordegren, citing sex addiction as the cause.

In the months following the scandal, many sponsors dropped Woods in an attempt to protect their brand. Nike was the only high-profile sponsor that stood behind him throughout the whole ordeal, and it is a move that they should not regret in the long run.

Woods returned to the PGA and continued golfing. Then on August 11, 2013, Woods said he felt tightness in his lower back during the final round of the PGA Championship. Two weeks later, he fell to his knees at the Barclays Pro-am after just one shot due to severe back spasms.

The weeks following this collapse, Woods would withdraw from several tournaments and play through severe pain in others. Then on March 31, 2014, Woods underwent surgery for a pinched nerve in his back. The next day, he announced that he was skipping the Masters and would not return to golf until the summer.

Woods never returned to golf that summer, and in September of 2015, he underwent a second surgery that removed a disc fragment that was pinching his nerve. One month later, Woods had yet another surgery to relieve discomfort in his back and set no timetable for his return.

Woods then underwent back surgery for a fourth time in 2017. This surgery was more serious than the previous. The surgery was called a spinal fusion and was labeled as a success that alleviated pain he had been experiencing in his back and leg.

Woods went on to get back in top form over the next three years, reinventing his swing and building his mental toughness. The long journey back to the top was filled with pain and misery, but Tiger Woods is back and is showing no signs of slowing down. Golf’s most beloved player of the current generation gave us all something to cheer for on Sunday and something to cheer for every time he steps foot on a golf course.

It is all too easy to criticize Woods for his extramarital affairs, but everyone deserves a second chance. Our society is built on the foundation that we all get second chances to learn from our mistakes and better ourselves. While it is true that Woods should be held to a higher standard due to his position as a role model, he should not be deprived of that second chance.

As Woods walked away from the 18th hole on Sunday, his life came full circle. When he last won the Masters in 2005, he embraced his father, Earl Woods. Sunday, he embraced his own son in a scene that made the world melt. Woods then walked up to the clubhouse at Augusta, greeting and embracing several players that he inspired over the years. These players represent the current generation of top golfers that attribute Woods as the reason they started playing the game.

To end on a personal note, I grew up watching Tiger Woods and cheering him on every tournament he played in. He inspired me to start golfing and to be a competitor. When his tragic downfall occurred in 2009, he showed me that people make mistakes, but we shouldn’t be defined by those mistakes forever, instead we should use those mistakes as teachings to become better people. I am ecstatic for what the future holds for Woods as he chases Jack Nicklaus for the most major wins in a career. Nicklaus has 18 majors while Woods now has 15.

Fortier can be reached at [email protected]