By Itoro N. Umontuen
The greatest golfer ever completed his comeback this past Sunday afternoon. Yes, that golfer. Yes, it took place in Atlanta. Yes, tens of thousands of people were at East Lake Golf Club to witness it. Yes, everyone (including you) wondered if Tiger Woods could be great again. However, Tiger wondered if he could step onto a golf course again.
What made Tiger great in the beginning was the tough love from his father Earl. He was a master craftsman when it comes to profane language. He began cursing at Tiger at eleven years old. Some said that was child abuse, but Earl believed he was instilling a steely and unbreakable resolve that would serve his son well when faced with adversity.
Little did anyone know, that resolve would be tested at Tiger’s highest point.
Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He was leading the PGA tour in earnings, he was the face of Nike and had every entertainer eating from the palm of his hand. However, that U.S. Open proved to be his last major prior to his divorce.
Tiger’s divorce from Elin Nordegren was finalized July 3, 2010 and their settlement was completed August 23, 2010. The details of the divorce were unknown at the time but, according to reports, Nordegren received between $100 million and $110 million, plus monthly child support averaging $20,000 per month. Coupled with the new house Elin purchased, Tiger was sending his ex-wife around $860,000 per month in alimony.
Woods loved privacy. He even christened his yacht with that name. However, the divorce and its ramifications caused the world to pry into his castle.
After his divorce, Tiger began to medicate heavily. He was addicted to pain killers. His private life, taste in women, and apparent lack of cultural awareness became public fodder. He would curse his golf swing, time and time again. 68% of complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission were in direct response to Woods’s colorful usage of the English language.
The cursing, the grinding on the practice tees, putting more than 500 times a day gave way to back problems. Tiger couldn’t swing like he used to. First, Woods Almost one year ago, the greatest golfer planet Earth has ever seen, couldn’t get out of bed. Last year, Woods was admitted into the Texas Back Institute and a surgeon cut an incision into Tiger’s abdomen about the width of a golf hole, pulled muscles and organs aside and arrived at the spinal column. The surgeon and screwed in a bone graft between the L5 and S1 vertebrae. Many thought his career would be over.
Tiger couldn’t run, couldn’t jog much less swing a golf club. Coupled with the rise of young guns like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson, it would be a miracle if Tiger could be in contention, much less win anything.
“The amount of times I’ve fallen because my leg didn’t work or I just had to lay on the ground in pain for extended periods of time,” Woods said before his start at Augusta National. “Those are some really dark, dark times. I’m a walking miracle … I don’t know if anyone who’s had a lower back fusion can swing the club as fast as I can swing it. That’s incredible.”
Little did anyone know, that same steely resolve his father Earl instilled into a young Eldrick Woods would serve him at 42 of age.
Tiger never gave up, even when he had many justifiable reasons to quit. Tiger never backed down from the daunting tasks of rebuilding his golf swing, even though many said the game passed him by. In his hey day, Tiger Woods was the man that caused the casual fan to watch golf each weekend. There was no such thing as social media or smart phones when he won The Masters in 1997. This weekend, Tiger Woods was the trending topic on an NFL Sunday.
It took 1,874 days for Tiger to win a tournament once again. Thousands of people poured onto the 18th fairway to salute the man that was the symbol of greatness. When it all boils down to it, Earl Woods, is the happiest gentleman of them all. Tiger Woods is great again.
This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.