Tiger Woods Wins 5th Green Jacket…Now Can He Catch Jack Nicklaus?
What once seemed impossible may just now be possible. Tiger Woods, at the age of 43, four back surgeries and two tabloid scandals later, is once again a Major Champion. His final round 2-under par score of 70 was enough to beat Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele by one stroke.
“My first 14 wins in majors were always — I had the lead in every one of them, or tied for the lead,” stated Tiger in his post-round press conference. “To have the opportunity to come back like this, you know, it is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure because of it.”
“You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding.”
However, what makes this win that much more special is the time between this win and his last major victory — 10 years, nine months and 28 days. His success at Augusta yesterday gave him a total of 15 majors, including five green jackets which are now only one behind Jack Nicklaus. So, has Tiger legitimately put himself back to reach or surpass Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors?
For so many years Tiger made the game look so easy; not only was he dynamic to watch, but his mental focus was something no one had ever seen before. He was truly gifted. But life happened, and due to a combination of physical ailments and personal issues, the unflappable man became just that. It seemed that he might be on his way to a horrid and unworthy end to his transcendent career.
As a President’s Cup Vice Captain in September 2017, Woods himself stated, “My timetable is based on what my surgeon said,” Woods said on Wednesday. “As I alluded to last week, I’m hitting 60-yard shots. I’m hitting it really straight … it’s a joke, smile, OK.”
“There were times when, as you all know, what [U.S. captain Steve Stricker] said before, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to be here because I couldn’t ride in a cart. The bouncing just hurt too much. Driving a car still hurt. So that’s all gone now, which is fantastic, and yeah, there were some intrepid times; not just for this golf tournament, but for life going forward.”
However, Woods was able to work his way back, and his demeanor seemed friendlier, happier and at peace. And last year he even came close with near victories at both The Open at Carnoustie and the PGA Championship at Bellerive. He was also able to finish off his 2018 comeback campaign with a win at the season-ending Tour Championship.
While many of us still wondered if his body could hold up under tournament conditions and even more importantly did he have the mind space left to win, those who witnessed his journey first hand never had a doubt.
“I saw that this was a definite possibility,” stated Rickie Fowler, a neighbor of Woods in South Florida who’d played plenty of home games. “Obviously you have to go out and do it and win, which is a lot harder than people think.”
“He’s getting older, and it takes a little bit of work for him to get ready,” said the 30-year-old Fowler, 13 years Woods’ junior. “But he’s been through a lot. I don’t think people know how much.”
“This puts 18 [majors] into real reach,” stated Fowler. “I thought the first one would be the hardest.”
So does this implausible now seem plausible? Three majors left this year — next up is the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black where Woods won the U.S. Open in 2002 and then next up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach where he obliterated the field in 2002 by a record 15 shots. And although he has never played a competitive round at Royal Portrush, the home of this year’s Open Championship, he is the proud owner of 3 Claret Jugs.
According to Jack, definitely not. “The next two majors are at Bethpage, where he’s won, and Pebble Beach, where he’s won,” stated Nicklaus. “He’s got me shaking in my boots, guys.”
This indeed may be not only the completion of but the mere beginning of the greatest comebacks of all time.
“[Tiger] continues to stretch the limits of what one imagines is possible,” stated Brandel Chamblee on the Golf’ Channel’s post-tournament show. “You can read, re-read, talk, write about Tiger all your life and never get beyond the fact that he’s just an enigma. How can so many gifts, so absolute, belong to one man?”
Congratulations Tiger Woods on your 5th green jacket and 15th Major win. And from one GOAT to another…