Tiger Woods' Masters return evokes 'Tiger mania' of old

He last won a major nearly 10 years ago, and has since been mauled by the maelstrom of life yet "Tiger mania" is in f...

Posted: Apr 4, 2018 7:35 AM
Updated: Apr 4, 2018 7:35 AM

He last won a major nearly 10 years ago, and has since been mauled by the maelstrom of life yet "Tiger mania" is in full swing at Augusta.

From a sex scandal, divorce, and loss of form, to arrest for driving under the influence, addiction to painkillers and four major back surgeries, Tiger Woods' route into the sunset of his career has been rocky to say the least.

Woods returns to Masters for first time since 2015

Underwent spine fusion surgery last April

Has had four back surgeries since March 2014

Plus, he's 42 in a sport dominated by fit, young athletes -- a trend he pioneered 20 years ago.

And yet.

Woods will tee it up at Augusta this week as one of the favorites to clinch a fifth green jacket and 15th major title.

Far from fairytale or wishful thinking, Woods' remarkable resurgence this season following back fusion surgery last April suggests he is trending towards the top of a leaderboard. In his last three events he's finished 12th, tied second and tied fifth.

And not just any leaderboard. If anywhere is Woods' patch, it's Augusta National.

Four victories and nine other top 10s in 19 Masters as a pro suggests if he has any kind of form, he has a chance.

"He's got a great chance, his game is right there, he's very comfortable around this golf course," Rory McIlroy told a media conference Tuesday at Augusta.

READ: Rory McIlroy -- Holywood star with box-office appeal

And yet.

Woods hasn't played the Masters since 2015 and has missed three of the last four because of the persistent back injury. He tried to get fit, but says in hindsight it was a "pipe dream" as his back was "fried."

He last won at Augusta in 2005 when Jordan Spieth, another of this week's likely protagonists, was 11.

His last major title was 2008, after which life not only got in the way but tripped him up and kicked him when he was down.

READ: McIlroy, Mickelson, Spieth target grand slam elite

Just last year he spoke of "dark times" during his various spells out for rehabilitation. He talked of having "no light at the end of the tunnel" and feared his career was over. He even worried he might not be able to get back to a full and normal life -- playing with his kids, driving a car, going out to dinner. The pain in his back and down his leg was too bad.

Last May he was arrested for driving under the influence and his haggard face was paraded around the world in his police mugshot. The dashcam video of Woods attempting to answer questions was painful viewing for fans.

This public humiliation was a new low and the final confirmation for some that he was done.

READ: India's Shubhankar Sharma 'believes he can win Masters'

And yet.

The painkillers he was using were helping in his recovery from the back fusion surgery -- his fourth procedure since March 2014. Evidence would suggest the op was a major success. Free of the meds, Woods appears to be a new man.

"I don't have any pain," he told reporters Tuesday, acknowledging this comeback is "light years" from 2017's aborted return.

"Yes, I'm much tighter but for some reason it's come back. All of a sudden I had this pop in my body and my speed's back and my timing."

So far this year, the former world No.1 has recorded the fourth fastest club head speed on the PGA Tour. Speed equals distance. So much for an injured ageing has been.

"I got a second chance on life," Woods was quoted as saying on his website last week.

"I'm a walking miracle."

'Mystical'

That's exactly what golf thought of Woods when he made his splash, winning by a record 12 shots to become the youngest Masters champion at 21 years of age in 1997.

He added a second green jacket in 2001, the fourth leg of the famed "Tiger slam" for holding all four majors at once (although across two calendar years), and backed it up with a third in 2002 despite the "Tiger proofing" of the course to combat his power.

Woods' fourth green jacket in 2005 came via one of the most legendary shots in Masters lore -- a chip-in using the viscious slope of the 16th green to coax his ball down into the hole.

In his heyday, Woods seemed at times to exist on a different plane. One of his most remarkable -- even slightly mystical performances -- was when he winced his way to his last major victory -- the 2008 US Open -- on what was later diagnosed as a broken leg.

Then came the private life scandal that brought him crashing down.

Woods regained his world No.1 spot with a five-win season in 2013 before the back injury chapters began.

He acknowledges he is nudging towards the sunset of his career, but like other great sportsmen such as tennis legend Roger Federer, Woods refuses to go quietly.

Despite the case against him, Woods has forced his way back into the picture. The intangibles seem to outweigh the facts with the great ones.

Woods' re-emergence -- dubbed "superhuman" by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan -- has evoked memories of the old days.

But this time he's different.

Greatest comeback?

The ultra-focused younger Woods was an icy figure. This Woods is approachable, more engaging -- he even played a practice round at Augusta with former arch rival Phil Mickelson. Time, age and life has mellowed the old gladiators.

"We're at the tail end of our careers, we both know that," Woods told his Augusta media conference.

"That was then and this is now."

READ: Fan Favorite Phil Mickelson still pushing for grand slam glory

And now is reporters asking Woods if victory this week would represent the greatest comeback in sports.

"I've got four rounds to play so let's just slow down," he laughed.

Until the tournament begins, at least, Woods' rivals are delighted he is back in the fray.

"A lot of people quickly forgot what he accomplished," said former world No. 1 Jason Day. "But now he's back and he looks like he was before, everyone's chomping at the bit to see what he can accomplish."

Woods' fellow American Rickie Fowler added: "Tiger's earned the attention. After Arnold [Palmer] and Jack [Nicklaus] set it up, Tiger changed the game and took it to a whole new level. He's been the biggest needle mover in the game and it's going to be tough for anyone to come close to that."

Woods described fellow golfer Ben Hogan's comeback after a head-on car crash with a bus in 1949 as one of sport's greatest comebacks.

Nicklaus might have a claim, too, after winning a sixth Masters at the age of 46.

But a fifth green jacket Sunday would put Woods right in the mix.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 150664

Reported Deaths: 4008
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24697784
Lake13220352
St. Joseph8877159
Elkhart8469132
Allen7880222
Hamilton5962113
Vanderburgh559360
Tippecanoe354714
Monroe320738
Hendricks3183130
Johnson2995128
Porter297848
Clark285461
Delaware282074
Vigo252637
Madison229593
Cass222021
LaPorte215557
Warrick188464
Kosciusko176823
Floyd174867
Howard158866
Bartholomew139758
Dubois135125
Marshall132526
Henry122628
Grant120939
Wayne119327
Boone118848
Hancock114145
Noble113533
Jackson108713
Morgan92240
Dearborn91628
Daviess84033
Gibson83411
Clinton81616
Shelby79429
Lawrence78534
LaGrange76715
Harrison74024
Putnam71016
Knox70310
DeKalb69411
Posey6796
Steuben6008
Fayette58517
Miami5845
Montgomery57222
White56815
Jasper5624
Greene51837
Scott50813
Decatur49839
Adams4725
Clay4346
Whitley4316
Sullivan42812
Ripley4228
Wells4155
Starke3937
Wabash3919
Orange38725
Huntington3785
Spencer3706
Franklin36525
Jennings36013
Washington3592
Randolph3398
Fulton3362
Jefferson3305
Pike31913
Carroll31413
Perry29514
Jay2876
Fountain2863
Tipton26823
Parke2203
Newton21811
Vermillion2181
Rush2044
Owen2021
Martin1950
Blackford1923
Crawford1491
Pulaski1471
Brown1303
Ohio1227
Benton1070
Union1040
Switzerland890
Warren751
Unassigned0233

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 185639

Reported Deaths: 5083
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin30978635
Cuyahoga19436675
Hamilton16234338
Montgomery10083186
Lucas8175370
Butler8028123
Summit6555261
Warren406360
Stark3696178
Mahoning3635283
Marion335149
Pickaway296946
Delaware281127
Lorain266689
Fairfield257856
Licking248865
Wood244681
Clark242454
Clermont234937
Trumbull2221134
Greene219640
Columbiana210187
Allen203873
Miami195656
Lake188357
Medina180242
Portage156167
Mercer147128
Ross133833
Wayne131568
Richland128624
Tuscarawas123622
Athens11742
Erie113853
Darke110151
Madison103514
Hancock103023
Auglaize95116
Putnam91527
Lawrence90725
Shelby86814
Muskingum8434
Geauga83650
Scioto8059
Belmont78427
Union7343
Ashtabula72148
Huron69910
Sandusky69422
Preble59517
Seneca58514
Holmes57010
Ottawa56830
Fulton5056
Jefferson4564
Henry45317
Defiance44413
Jackson4417
Clinton43613
Fayette4328
Crawford4308
Highland4024
Logan4023
Champaign3873
Ashland3735
Brown3683
Knox36215
Perry35411
Washington33323
Morrow3312
Hardin32113
Williams3194
Coshocton29812
Pike2880
Guernsey2878
Wyandot28413
Gallia27913
Van Wert2333
Meigs21012
Adams2036
Carroll1917
Paulding1901
Hocking1899
Monroe15218
Noble1210
Vinton903
Harrison793
Morgan740
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Angola
52° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Huntington
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 55°
Decatur
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
Overcast
55° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 55°
Warmer Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events