QOTW: Tiger’s Comeback

Each week, our panel of writers will be asked a question about the game of golf.  Topics will range from their predictions for the Tour season to what they would order from the concession stand at Augusta National Golf Club.  No subject is off limits for this esteemed group.

Another incredible weekend at Augusta, but this one was extra special for golf fans.  The Tiger comeback is complete, and we asked our writers to put his latest triumph into perspective.

This week’s question:  Is Tiger’s victory the greatest comeback in the history of sport?

No

red sox

Bear: That honor belongs to the 2004 Boston Red Sox.  Down 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS. Losing to the Evil Empire in the bottom of the 9th. Facing the best closer of all time. Walk, steal, single (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ-VM4UDq-E) and the rest is history. No team had ever come back from down 3-0 before, and the Red Sox did it against their bitter rivals to propel them to their first World Series in 86 years.

SI713_TK1_06234

Frank Laterza:  We love comebacks.  It drives us to our own personal satisfaction as we attach ourselves to the event at hand.  I think this question is all about what you consider a comeback to be.  In my opinion, Tigers “comeback” started August 31st, 2017, when Tiger posted on Instagram: “Dr. gave me the ok to start chipping” in slow motion, and it didn’t exactly end with The Masters win.  While I think in some senses it completed the comeback, Tiger’s story is still being written.  That doesn’t in the slightest take away from what the man has done.  He was immortal before his 15th Major Championship, and this chapter only adds to the history that is written about quite possibly the best to ever tee it up.

But in the history of sport, and with the thought of a beginning and end, it’s hard to choose against the Patriots comeback in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons.  They were down 28-3 with 2:07 left in the 3rd quarter.  To accomplish this comeback, they literally had to play the perfect 17:07 of football and then some – it’s not like Tiger was perfect in that final round, he bogeyed 4 holes – to even get to OVERTIME.  They needed Tom Brady to go for 21-27 for 246 yards…in the 4th quarter and OT alone!  They needed a miraculous Julian Edelman catch over the middle of the field in-between 3 defenders, and they needed the coin to land in their favor to get the ball in overtime.  There was a beginning to the comeback – 2:06, 3rd quarter – and an end to the comeback – when James White reached to the goal line in overtime.  The 2016-2017 New England Patriots story was completed, and it ended with the greatest comeback I have ever seen in sports.

uva

Mike McNamara:  No, and not even close.  I’m sorry, but Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest golfer to ever live.  He had won 14 Major Championships before Sunday April 14th, of 2019.  This is a man that is a once-in-a-generation talent that finally got healthy again and essentially got back to what he had done for his entire career – win at the highest level.  Is it incredibly impressive that he was able to do it after barely being able to walk two years ago?  Absolutely.  But to me, that is more the byproduct of finally having successful back procedures.  The dude always knew how to play golf.  The personal saga with his wife etc. does not make the comeback more impressive, and I did not agree with Jim Nantz’s comments insinuating that all parents should be in tears.  I don’t even consider this the greatest comeback story of this month – I’ll give that honor to the Virginia Cavaliers, who rebounded from a gut-wrenching loss to UMBC in March of 2018, and let that fuel them all the way to a title in 2019.

Ben Hogan Swinging Golf Club

Jack Corrigan:  I would say it is up there but to put something at #1 wouldn’t do several athletes justice.  I am not nearly educated enough on athletes of the past comebacks, but I do know Ben Hogan’s would rival Tiger’s and I am sure many others can.  We’re all victims of the moment and it was absolutely astounding, but I’m not putting any comeback at #1 until I have a list in front of me.

Yes

Tiger

Sam Scherman:  To the shock of no one, I wholeheartedly believe this is the great comeback in the history of sports.  Take away my Tiger bias and really look at how low Tiger was less than just 2 years ago.  He had just had his 4th back surgery, which is now fused, and he wasn’t allowed to even pick up a club.  18 months ago, he is allowed to start hitting just chip shots.  Fast forward to The Masters and he outlasts one of the toughest fields in golf to claim his 15th major.  Go back to only a few years ago when he had to skip every single major due to injury and tell me you thought he was playing again.  Then tell me you thought he would compete again… then win again… then win a major again.  Tiger now holds the greatest comeback in not just golf but SPORTS. #15

Tony Kasper:  There are so many incredible comebacks in the history of sports.  We’ve seen many this century: Pats over Falcons, Red Sox coming back from 3-0 over the Yankees, and the Virginia Cavaliers bouncing back from losing to a 16-seed to be crowned National Champion just last month.  I’m trying not to be a prisoner of the moment, but it’s hard not to say Tiger’s return is the greatest comeback ever.  He came back from so much physically, mentally, emotionally to get back to the pinnacle of his sport.  Because there are so many layers to his comeback, I’ll give Tiger the nod.

Kevin Walsh:  This question is a serious prisoner of the moment attempt by Tony.  However, I am taking the bait.  My disclaimer here is not including comebacks from illnesses, as I would give anyone who beat a horrible illness and came back to play the nod over injury.  With that being said, the other issues Tiger had to overcome make it the greatest to me.  I don’t remember the entire history of sports, but I can’t recall anything close in recent memory.  I give Tiger the edge because of the magnitude of importance that he plays in the sport of golf.  Literally all eyes are on him, all the time.  Include that pressure with returning from cheating, countless injuries, and 4 back procedures, not to mention a mix up of medications…which who knows if that was all that was. For 95% of the media he was a “has been”, someone we’d never see perform to his previous heights again. Yet he was able to come back from arguably the most public downfall of all time to win on golf’s greatest stage. That seals the deal for me.

Sean Carney:  When you take a look at golf as a whole, there will never be a golfer as polarizing as Tiger Woods.  Tiger has meant so much for golf, from viewership, to finances and growing the game as a whole.  Between the numerous back surgeries, knee injuries, an Achilles injury, marital problems, and a bit of a substance problem, many thought he was done.  He could have thrown in the towel, sailed off into the sunset, and quite frankly, I would not have blamed him.  He would have been considered the second best golfer of all time.  The odds he was able to overcome were almost insurmountable.  With that being said, I’ll say this is the greatest comeback in the history of sports. It’s great for Tiger, it’s great for the game, and it is great for the fans.

Jake Mulholland: Hands down, the answer is yes.  As much as I cringed at DJ losing out on his first green jacket by one shot, I was happy for the GOAT.  Sunday was possibly the greatest display of perseverance that I have ever witnessed.  For the majority of my teens and early 20’s, I have always wondered what Tiger would have done if the likes of DJ, Koepka, Rahm, Spieth (in his prime), DeChambeau, Xander, Rory, Molinari, Ricky etc. were in the mix.  My issue with Tiger growing up was the level of quality players surrounding him.  There were a few players pre-2004 such as: Singh, Els, Mickelson, Harrington, Donald, Love III, Duval, Langer and late arrivals (post 2007) of : Scott, Stenson, Furyk, Rose, etc.  But the field then in my opinion is nothing compared to today.  Today’s game there is more of a level playing field with any 25 players that could capture a tournament win or claim a spot in the OWGR top 10.  One simple fact that stands out to me is that a 300 yard drive on tour these days gets you a ranking of 48th in Driving Distance on tour (Carlos Ortiz- 300.1).

Amidst all of the chaos and competition stands Tiger Woods. A man that had trouble walking just two years ago around this time has reclaimed the throne at The Masters in 2019. His emergence as a contender in today’s game did not begin this past weekend.  In fact, all of last year there were glimpses of the Tiger we once knew.  While I watched Tiger all of last year, I was worried.  I was worried that one aggressive swing may take him over the edge and end his career.  To me, he was truly on his way out as he grimaced through drives, attempts to bend irons around trees, and the occasional spaz out on wedge play.  As the season progressed, I noticed a change in his stride.  He was suddenly walking more confidently… it seemed as if he was swinging with slightly less speed, but still absolutely going after every shot.  The one difference I noticed was his attitude.  As he prodded his way through the 2017-2018 season, he appeared to be a happy man out there competing.  Just the sheer fact that he had contended at the The Open, briefly claiming the lead at -7 was probably considered a win at the time for Mr. Woods.   A couple months later, Tiger was able to capture the Tour Championship, which serves as the last official tournament of the Fed-Ex Cup Season.  His momentum coming into this year propelled him to confidently take hold of this season on tour.  The Masters win, in my eyes is one of the greatest feats in sports history.  We may have witnessed the most cluttered leader-board of quality contenders heading into Sunday at The 2019 Masters and the 43 year old man, who has battled injury upon injury as well as strife in the public eye demonstrated a cool and composed demeanor in that final round.  There is no doubt that Tiger is out of his prime, but the fact that he defeated all of the best arguably in their prime totally eliminated my preconception that Tiger won the way he did in the 2000s because of lesser competition.  No one expected Tiger to win The Masters, they hoped.  Now that this dream has become a reality for so many, it seems that we have witnessed the greatest resurgence in Golf history.  With this win, I do not doubt Woods will be able to surpass Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins…I’m locking in my US Open pick now at Torrey Pines this summer. Expect a second major this year in California for Woods.

Past QOTW’s:

Week of 04/08 Pt. 2 – Masters Food Order – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/04/09/qotw-pt-2-masters-food-order/

Week of 04/08 Pt. 1 – Favorite Masters Memory – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/04/09/qotw-favorite-masters-memory/

Week of 04/01 – Favorite Club in Your Bag – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/04/02/qotw-favorite-club/

Week of 03/25 – Match Play Upset – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/27/qotw-match-play-upset/

Week of 03/18 – Clothing Sponsor of Choice – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/19/qotw-clothing-sponsor/

Week of 03/11 – Players Feature Groups – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/13/qotw-players-round/

Week of 03/04 – Result You’re Pulling For – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/06/qotw-result-youre-pulling-for/

Week of 02/24 – One State to Golf In – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/02/26/qotw-one-state-to-golf-in/

Week of 02/18 – Most Intimidating Current Pro – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/02/19/qotw-most-intimidating-current-pro/

Week of 02/11 – Who Will Make a Jump in OWGR – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/02/12/qotw-who-will-make-a-jump-in-the-owgr/

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