Infotainment Factory: How Tiger beat crippling pain before 'greatest' win

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Sunday, 23 September 2018

How Tiger beat crippling pain before 'greatest' win


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Tiger Woods has spoken of the desperation he felt during his long battles with back pain, following his drought-breaking victory at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

More than five years and four back surgeries after he last hoisted a winner’s trophy, Woods was briefly overcome with emotion during his march to victory at East Lake Golf Club.

With huge crowds following his every move and roaring their approval, it was a throwback to the days when he ruled the golfing world and made it seem like everyone else was playing for second place.

The glory days seemed like a distant memory at times over the last five years, as persistent back and nerve pain restricted him to just one solitary appearance across the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

A spinal fusion in April 2017 seemed the last resort, not just in terms of getting back on the golf course, but in living a normal life.

“The low point was not knowing if I’d ever be able to live pain-free again,” Woods said.

Tiger ends title drought

“Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay-down, without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn’t want to live that way. It was going to be a tough rest of my life.

“I was beyond playing. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t lay down without feeling the pain in my leg.

“That was a pretty low point, and it went on for a pretty long time.”

A DUI arrest in May 2017 showed how far Woods had fallen. His bleary-eyed mugshot made headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons, the man who once thrilled galleries with super-human performances reduced to a figure of ridicule. Subsequent toxicology reports showed a cocktail of painkillers in his system.

Woods describes despair of back injuries

Meanwhile the young stars of the PGA Tour took centre stage. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka started winning majors. A generation who grew up watching Woods, but didn’t have the mental scars of playing against him when he was all but invincible.

Those young guns even spoke of wishing they’d played against him at his very best, which drew a succinct response from former world No.1 David Duval, a man who knew what it meant to see Woods at his prime.

“The hell you do,” said Duval, cautioning the likes of Thomas and Spieth to be careful what they wished for.

Tiger birdies 13th at Tour Championship

A second place finish at the Valspar Championship in March this year, just 11 months after his spinal fusion surgery, gave hope that Woods could compete again at the top level.

Consecutive top-10s at the British Open and US PGA, where he was in the mix on the final day before finishing second, reinforced that view.

His victory at the Tour Championship puts to rest any concerns that he’d forgotten how to win.

“I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. “I felt like I was watching a great piece of fiction. This is the greatest comeback in the history of golf.

“We know his injuries. He came back from emotional and psychological toil the likes of which nobody has ever been hit with in the game of golf.”

A big motivation for Woods was allowing his children, Sam 11 and Charlie 9, to see first-hand what their father could do on a golf course.

“They understand a little bit of what Dad does now, I hadn’t won any tournaments that they can remember, so this will be a little bit different for them,” Woods said.

“They know what their dad can do on a golf course now, it’s not what I used to be able to do.

“A lot of times they equated golf to pain, because every time I did it I got hurt, and it would cause me more pain. Now they’re seeing a little bit more joy, and how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again.”

Woods and caddie Joe LaCava celebrate after the Tour Championship.

 

Asked where this win ranked in terms of his lengthy list of career highlights, Woods admitted it’s towards the top.

“It means a lot more to me now because I didn’t know if I’d ever be out here again, playing again.

“There was a point in time when I didn’t know if I’d ever do this again, so I appreciate it a little bit more than I did because I don’t take it for granted I’m going to have another decade or two decades in my future of playing golf at this level.”

Woods’ career has been re-born in Atlanta. Just over 200 kilometres up the road, the world’s best will gather at Augusta National in April. Anybody want to bet against Woods claiming a 15th major at the US Masters?

Not bad for a guy who couldn’t even sit without pain last year.

Tiger Woods has spoken of the desperation he felt during his long battles with back pain, following his drought-breaking victory at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

More than five years and four back surgeries after he last hoisted a winner’s trophy, Woods was briefly overcome with emotion during his march to victory at East Lake Golf Club.

With huge crowds following his every move and roaring their approval, it was a throwback to the days when he ruled the golfing world and made it seem like everyone else was playing for second place.

The glory days seemed like a distant memory at times over the last five years, as persistent back and nerve pain restricted him to just one solitary appearance across the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

A spinal fusion in April 2017 seemed the last resort, not just in terms of getting back on the golf course, but in living a normal life.

“The low point was not knowing if I’d ever be able to live pain-free again,” Woods said.

Tiger ends title drought

“Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay-down, without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn’t want to live that way. It was going to be a tough rest of my life.

“I was beyond playing. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t lay down without feeling the pain in my leg.

“That was a pretty low point, and it went on for a pretty long time.”

A DUI arrest in May 2017 showed how far Woods had fallen. His bleary-eyed mugshot made headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons, the man who once thrilled galleries with super-human performances reduced to a figure of ridicule. Subsequent toxicology reports showed a cocktail of painkillers in his system.

Woods describes despair of back injuries

Meanwhile the young stars of the PGA Tour took centre stage. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka started winning majors. A generation who grew up watching Woods, but didn’t have the mental scars of playing against him when he was all but invincible.

Those young guns even spoke of wishing they’d played against him at his very best, which drew a succinct response from former world No.1 David Duval, a man who knew what it meant to see Woods at his prime.

“The hell you do,” said Duval, cautioning the likes of Thomas and Spieth to be careful what they wished for.

Tiger birdies 13th at Tour Championship

A second place finish at the Valspar Championship in March this year, just 11 months after his spinal fusion surgery, gave hope that Woods could compete again at the top level.

Consecutive top-10s at the British Open and US PGA, where he was in the mix on the final day before finishing second, reinforced that view.

His victory at the Tour Championship puts to rest any concerns that he’d forgotten how to win.

“I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” said Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. “I felt like I was watching a great piece of fiction. This is the greatest comeback in the history of golf.

“We know his injuries. He came back from emotional and psychological toil the likes of which nobody has ever been hit with in the game of golf.”

A big motivation for Woods was allowing his children, Sam 11 and Charlie 9, to see first-hand what their father could do on a golf course.

“They understand a little bit of what Dad does now, I hadn’t won any tournaments that they can remember, so this will be a little bit different for them,” Woods said.

“They know what their dad can do on a golf course now, it’s not what I used to be able to do.

“A lot of times they equated golf to pain, because every time I did it I got hurt, and it would cause me more pain. Now they’re seeing a little bit more joy, and how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again.”

Woods and caddie Joe LaCava celebrate after the Tour Championship.

 

Asked where this win ranked in terms of his lengthy list of career highlights, Woods admitted it’s towards the top.

“It means a lot more to me now because I didn’t know if I’d ever be out here again, playing again.

“There was a point in time when I didn’t know if I’d ever do this again, so I appreciate it a little bit more than I did because I don’t take it for granted I’m going to have another decade or two decades in my future of playing golf at this level.”

Woods’ career has been re-born in Atlanta. Just over 200 kilometres up the road, the world’s best will gather at Augusta National in April. Anybody want to bet against Woods claiming a 15th major at the US Masters?

Not bad for a guy who couldn’t even sit without pain last year.

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