Tiger Woods completes comeback with first win in five years

Evin Priest

The man himself will tell you it is not even the greatest comeback in golf, let alone sport as a whole, citing instead Ben Hogan's recovery from a near-fatal car crash.

But whether Tiger Woods returning to the winners' circle after five years, four back operations and one DUI arrest is the greatest comeback, second greatest or not even in the top 10 simply could not matter less.

All that does matter is that Woods is back where he belongs among the world's elite and can focus now on achieving a feat that will see him automatically ranked as the greatest of all time, namely surpassing the 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus.

In a last-ditch bid to save his career, Woods underwent spinal fusion surgery in April last year and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence the following month when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car.

The 42-year-old, who had five prescription drugs in his system, later pleaded guilty to reckless driving, underwent a diversion program and spent 11 months on probation, returning to competitive golf at the end of November by admitting he was "winging it" as he waited to see if his fused back would hold up.

Tiger Woods celebrates his first win in five years. Pic: Getty


"I've been in bed for about two years and haven't been able to do much," Woods revealed ahead of the Hero World Challenge, where he would finish ninth in the 18-man field.

Back on the PGA Tour in 2018, Woods missed the cut in his second event but crucially felt fit enough to add tournaments to his schedule and the results soon followed, most notably when he led the Open Championship with eight holes to play and then finished runner-up in the US PGA.

In that sense his victory in the Tour Championship came as no surprise, but for anyone who had watched Woods become a shadow of his former self in recent years, surprise - or even amazement - would be a completely understandable reaction.

After winning five times in 2013, Woods had started just 24 events in the next four years as the pain from his back often left him grimacing in pain or forced to withdraw from events entirely, most recently after an opening 77 in Dubai in February 2017, where he struggled to climb out of a bunker.


So if his millions of fans want to label it the greatest comeback they have plenty of ammunition, but as a historian of the game Woods knows all about what Ben Hogan had to overcome to simply walk again, let alone return to golf and win six of his nine major titles, including all three he could contest in 1953.

Hogan and his wife Valerie survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus in February 1949, an accident which left the 36-year-old Hogan in hospital for two months with a double fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots.

"As far as greatest comebacks, I think that one of the greatest comebacks in all of sport is the gentleman who won here, Mr Hogan," Woods said ahead of the Masters in April. "I mean, he got hit by a bus and came back and won major championships.

"The pain he had to endure, the things he had to do just to play and just how hard it was for him to walk, and he ended up walking 36 holes (in one day) and winning a US Open. That's one of the greatest comebacks there is, and it happens to be in our sport."