He’d gladly have settled for just playing again. That’s how Tiger Woods – who earlier in his career teed up in every single tournament believing he could win and, invariably did – felt as he was sidelined with back trouble.
“I had serious doubts (about making a comeback) after what transpired a couple years ago,” he said. “I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything.”
The 14-time major winner pulled out of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February 2017 due to back spasms. That led to him having spinal fusion surgery and he returned to action in his own event, the Hero Challenge in the Bahamas, at the end of that year.
He was 1,199th in the world rankings at that time but, after backing up some strong performances last year, notably finishing second in the US PGA Championship and then winning the Tour Championship, is now up to sixth.
“Luckily I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life,” added the 43-year-old, who had seen his major haul stall at 14 after marital infidelities cost him his marriage. “But then, all of a sudden, I realised I could actually swing a golf club again. I felt if I could somehow piece this together that I still had the hands to do it. The body’s not the same as it was a long time ago, but I still have good hands.
“I pieced it together, and to have the opportunity to come back like this, it is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had because of it. It’s got to be right up there after all the things that I’ve battled through.
“It’s ironic that I’m given a chance to play golf again, and, lo and behold, I won a tournament coming from behind, which I had not done for the first 14 (majors). So it’s just amazing.”
Woods had come into this event feeling quietly confident after recording his first title triumph in five years when beating a star-studded field to triumph in the Tour Championship at nearby Atlanta in September.
“The win at East Lake was a big confidence‑booster for me because I had come close last year a couple times and I didn’t quite do it,” he added. “That was a big step for me, confirming that I could still win out here and against the best players.
“To be able to do that against Rory [McIlroy] and Rosey [Justin Rose] there gave me a lot of confidence going into this year, and I said ‘just keep building on it and let’s try to get the mind and body peaking towards Augusta’.
“My last three major championships have been pretty good, so that in itself gives me a lot of confidence going down the road.”