Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time but, unlike other sporting legends, his career has been full of highs and lows. Woods was the dominant force in the sport for much of the opening decade of the 21st century, before he was beset by personal problems and injuries.
After infidelities in his marriage came to light, he took a break from the game and, when he returned, he found it difficult to regain his form. He was ranked 58th in the world towards the end of 2011, before once again rising to number one in 2013. He seemed to beback to his best, and his consistent performances made him a favourite on sports betting sites, before a recurring back problem required a succession of surgeries.
Woods underwent four operations in total between 2014 and 2017, and he more or less completely stopped golfing professionally in that period. By the time he started to play again in 2018, he had fallen out of the world’s top 1,000 golfers. His return to the top was relatively quick. He won the Tour Championship in September 2018, his first tournamentwin in five years.
He went on to win the 2019 Masters, his first major in 11 years. It seemed like Woods was back at the top of the game. Then, in February 2021, he was involved in a car accident. While his condition wasn’t life-threatening, it was serious, and the golfer underwent emergency surgery to treat his injuries, which included compound fractures in his right leg, and a shattered ankle.
Looking back, Woods has explained that amputation was a possibility, and the injuries were significant enough that professional golf looked all but impossible. The rehabilitation process included a wheelchair, followed by crutches, but even when he was back on his feet and able to move independently, a return to being a full-timegolfer seemed very unlikely, and Woods played down his chances of featuring in anything more than a few tournaments a year.
Despite the doubts, he managed to make it back to the tour. Woods featured in the 2022 Masters at Augusta. His participation attracted a lot of media attention, with speculation rife as to whether he would be able to finish the tournament. It seemed like a script from a Hollywood film, and more than a few punters found themselves looking up ‘what is a betting exchange’ as they saw the potential in backing a fairytale return for the veteran. While Woods didn’t go on to win, he still achieved the remarkable, as he made it to the end of the tournament, finishing 47th.
Although it was impressive that he even managed to get back on the golf course, Woods was visibly limping in the last couple of rounds, which did little to lessen concerns on his physical condition. While the American also made the cut for the PGA Championship, he had to withdraw before the final round, after shooting a nine-over par 79.
It’s not clear whether Woods will ever return to playing without pain, or whether he will be able to compete on a consistent basis. Back problems had already plagued him for much of the last decade, before adding his car crash on top of that.
However, Justin Thomas, the winner of the PGA Championship, was at pains to emphasise how impressive Woods’return was. Speaking after his win, he said: “I wouldn’t say how tough it was to see him struggle. I mean, he made the cut in his second major in a row, what, a year and a half after being in a gruesome car accident, [with a] broken leg?I don’t think you guys understand how unbelievable that is. He’s a freak of nature. It’s mind-blowing the things that he can do with his mind.”
It remains to be seen whether we will ever see the Tiger Woods of old again, but there’s no doubting that, for many, making it back out onto the golf course at all is the most impressive achievement of Woods’ career.