Tiger just the latest to complete a great golfing comeback
Few sporting moments in recent times have been as emotional as Tiger Woods finally getting back into the winner’s circle by lifting the Tour Championship at East Lake.
He was written off by most as debilitating injuries and back surgeries left him simply hoping to live a pain-free life rather than contemplating returning to the summit of the golfing mountain.
But fierce competitor that he is, the three-time Champion Golfer of the Year has battled his way back to the peak in the most memorable of ways and there appears plenty more to come.
So, what better time for us to take a look at some of the greatest golfing comebacks of all-time.
Tiger finds his roar
Tiger Woods looked destined to end his career with a frankly remarkable 79 PGA Tour victories to his name.
But on Sunday, he held off the field to win the Tour Championship by two shots and earn PGA Tour title number 80 – a full five years, one month and 19 days after winning number 79, the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational.
After two years of barely playing competitive golf due to chronic back pain and dropping out of the world’s top 1000 – an almost unthinkable decline for a man who dominated the sport for so long – Woods began his resurgence on a more restricted schedule.
As 2018 has progressed he has become noticeably more confident in his body’s – specifically his newly-fused back – ability to withstand the rigours of professional golf and the tournament sharpness has gradually returned.
Leading The Open at Carnoustie heading into the back nine on Sunday proved he was capable of competing once more and the 42-year-old completed the fairytale in Atlanta before revelling in the hard-fought nature of the triumph.
“It was a grind out there,’’ Woods said. “I loved every bit of it. The fight and the grind and the tough conditions – I just had to suck it up and hit shots, and I loved every bit of it.
“I was pretty emotional when Rory [playing partner, McIlroy] was tapping out, he was finishing out.
“I looked around, and the tournament was over because I’d already put the bunker shot on the green, and I’d won [PGA Tour title] 80. Eighty is a big number. I’ve been sitting on 79 for about five years now and to get 80 is a pretty damned good feeling.’’
Ben Hogan is in the conversation as the greatest golfer of all time but his golfing comeback is also among the most impressive.
In 1949, Hogan had virtually been pronounced dead after a horrific accident when his car collided with a Greyhound bus and was so badly injured (he suffered a broken clavical, a complex pelvic fracture, a fractured ankle, broken ribs, facial injuries and nearly died in the hospital from blood clots) that he had to learn how to walk again.
His recovery and return to golf became the basis for the film Follow the Sun, starring Glenn Ford, yet remarkably, just a year after his crash, he triumphed at the US Open.
He had won that particular major twice more, in 1951 and ‘53 – as well as two Masters – by the time The Open rolled around in 1953.
On this day in 1912, the legendary Ben Hogan was born 🎉— The Open (@TheOpen) August 13, 2018
Ahead of The 147th Open at Carnoustie, we sent @RickShielsPGA to Carnoustie and set him the challenge of hitting the narrow fairway of Hogan's Alley using one of Ben Hogan's clubs! 🏌️ pic.twitter.com/OyKRHXAWUa
Then aged 40, Hogan had never before competed at The Open, and ultimately his only other visit to Britain would be for the 1956 Canada Cup at Wentworth, but on his first and only try, he became Champion Golfer of the Year at Carnoustie.
It completed a remarkable comeback, the like of which will probably never be seen again.
No chink in the Armour
They don’t make them like they used to… Today’s golfers may have to overcome plenty of adversity to reach the top of the sport but it’s unlikely that any of them will have to recover from lying in an army hospital bed with a shattered arm, a metal plate in their head and completely blind from exposure to mustard gas.
But Tommy Armour did.
The Silver Scot produced a frankly ridiculous comeback to go from the condition stated above to winning the first of his three major titles in just ten years.
Armour always had a certain aura around him – stories of him single-handedly capturing a German tank and strangling the tank commander with his bare hands when he refused to surrender circulated after he served in the newly-created Tank Corps in the British Army during World War I.
Regardless of that particular tale’s veracity, his war heroics earned him an audience with King George V and once he regained sight in his right eye – he would remain blind in his left for the rest of his life – he concentrated on reaching the golfing pinnacle.
He did this by winning the 1927 US Open, before clinching the 1930 PGA Championship and, perhaps his greatest achievement, lifting the Claret Jug at Carnoustie by becoming Champion Golfer of the Year in 1931.
Stenson regains his cool
Henrik Stenson’s decline wasn’t caused by injuries, a car crash or being shelled with mustard gas in France during WWI but that doesn’t make his comeback any less impressive.
The Swede had won the prestigious Players Championship in 2009 and moved to No.4 in the world when news broke that he had fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by one of his sponsors, Stanford Financial Group.
Stenson apparently lost as much as $7million and those off-course woes appeared to affect his golf as he slid to No.230 in the world rankings by February 2012.
However, Stenson recaptured his best form – a second-placed finish at The Open in 2013 proving a turning point – before memorably becoming Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal Troon in 2016 by outduelling Phil Mickelson on an enthralling final day.
It was a fitting comeback for the Swede, who had regained his ice-cool exterior.