Tiger’s redemption after years of disgrace

Catching up: Woods is just two short of Sam Snead’s all-time PGA Tour title record of 82. © Getty

Are comebacks the greatest stories in the world? On Sunday, Tiger Woods won his first golf tournament since 2013, completing a remarkable return from injury and personal disgrace.

Tiger Woods, tall and lean, dressed in red and black, surveyed the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. As Thomas Boswell writes in The Washington Post: “Around him, strewn like duckpins, lay 29 of the best golfers on Earth, so far behind him they might as well not have bothered to play. Just like the old days.”

The most famous golfer in the world was about to win the 2018 Tour Championship. Thousands of fans spilled onto the 18th fairway to follow Woods to the green chanting “U-S-A” and “Tiger, Tiger”.

He finally made it to the finish with a simple four-inch putt to win the Championship by two shots. The tears he had been fighting back burst forth. “I just can’t believe I’ve pulled this off,” he said.

Less than a year ago, Woods was ranked 1,199th in the world after spinal fusion surgery — the latest of multiple operations. The only question seemed to be when the official retirement announcement would to arrive.

Before the miracle in Atlanta, “Woods was somewhere between holy relic and washed-up film star,” writes Tom Fordyce for BBC Sport. “His aura had gone and his hair was following.”

His private life was a car crash. In late 2009, stories emerged about Woods’s multiple infidelities. In February 2010, he gave an extraordinary televised statement in which he said he had gone into rehab. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” he said. His marriage broke up soon after.

And then there were the actual car crashes. Two of them. The first sparked the controversy that would dismantle his reputation. The second ended in arrest. Tests showed the presence of numerous drugs in his bloodstream.

Some have called this the greatest individual comeback in sporting history.

Rival claims include Muhammad Ali, who was stripped of the world heavyweight title because of his objections to the Vietnam War and returned to win the title, and Magic Johnson, who came back to play in the NBA for a year after an HIV diagnosis.

But Woods’s reputation sank lower than almost any other sporting hero. Is this the ultimate tale of redemption?

Eye of the tiger

Woods’s many failures and imperfections show he is human, and therefore make him sympathetic, say some. It is one thing to be old or injured, but Woods was mocked and disdained by a world that relishes seeing heroes brought low. His return to win a tournament so late in his career is an incredible tale.

Rubbish, reply others. Unlike Ali, Woods did not sacrifice his career for his beliefs, nor did he have to cope with a stigmatised disease like Johnson. His problems were self-inflicted, making him far less sympathetic. And one victory does not mean Woods will return to the dominance of old.

You Decide

  1. Is Tiger Woods a hero?
  2. Do you like golf?

Activities

  1. Work in pairs. List five qualities each that you think a role model should have. Briefly explain each and then choose the most important one between you.
  2. Research another story of sporting redemption and write 500 words on whether you think it is more powerful than Tiger Woods’s.

Some People Say...

“Golf is me.”

Tiger Woods

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Tiger Woods won a golf tournament for the first time in 1,876 days on Sunday, winning the Tour Championship, the traditional end of the golfing season. Woods holed out for par on the final hole to complete a final round of 71, finishing 11-under. England's Justin Rose lost his world number one ranking after finishing tied for fourth place.
What do we not know?
Whether this recent stunning victory will serve as a springboard to relaunch Woods’s career. He is now 42 years old which, even for golf, is old. His rival Justin Rose certainly thinks so though, saying: “All year long he’s looked like winning. He’s played some great golf and he’s looked world class again.”

Word Watch

Tour Championship
Part of the PGA Tour, the Tour Championship is hosted at East Lake in Atlanta, Georgia, ever year. It is the final event of the four-tournament FedEx Cup.
The latest of multiple operations
As well as a broken leg and three reconstructive knee surgeries, Woods has long had terrible back problems. He has had surgery on his back four times, and has said that, at times, he could barely sit or walk.
Numerous drugs in his bloodstream
These were two painkillers, a sleeping pill, an anti-anxiety drug and the active ingredient in marijuana.
Muhammad Ali
Ali was sent to prison for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. His comeback years were marked by his defeat of George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle” and his victory over eternal rival Joe Frazier in “The Thriller in Manila”.
HIV diagnosis
This was in the 1980s, when public understanding of HIV and AIDS was still limited. Johnson’s recovery helped destigmatise the condition.