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The Return of The G.O.A.T.

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PALM HARBOR, FL – MARCH 11: Tiger Woods plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 11, 2018 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

2018 has been an exciting year for golfers so far, mainly due to the return of the greatest competitor the game has ever seen, Tiger Woods. Tiger has made returns to the PGA before but his latest return feels just a bit different.

In past years he has been visibly struggling both mentally and physically, “He just didn’t look like he was having fun out there, ya know,” said Erik Degelmann, a golfer himself and a fan of the PGA Tour. Degelmann seems to be correct. The game of golf seemed to have lost all joy for the once great Tiger Woods; the famous club twirl patented by Tiger was rarely seen and he seemed to lack any confidence in his game.

Watching Tiger Woods play at the peak of his career was almost indescribable, the ferocity and eloquence of his game were breathtaking and his dominance in the early 2000’s was terrifying; the world had never seen someone so dominant in any sport. So how could the most commanding player in golfing history (perhaps in sporting history) go from being a nearly unbeatable force to barely being able to make a cut? A combination of catastrophic injuries and problems in his personal life going as far back as 1994 when he was just a college freshman both contributed to his unfortunate downfall.

Woods has had a long history of injuries starting in 1994 when he had his first of four knee surgeries to remove two benign tumors in his left knee. He would have surgery to remove fluid and benign cysts in the same knee in 2002. In 2008 Tiger would yet again have surgery on his left knee to repair cartilage damage. Also in 2008, Woods fractures his tibia and partially tears his ACL just weeks before the U.S. Open and still manages to win the tournament. For the fourth and final time Woods has reconstructive surgery on his left knee to repair his ACL.

Later in his career Woods would encounter severe issues in his back, setting him back even further. From 2014 to 2017 Tiger would undergo four back surgeries and only play in fourteen professional events as a result.

And if the countless injuries weren’t enough of a set back, Tiger’s personal life put him into a situation that would cost him several major endorsements and eradicate his once great mental fortitude.

In November of 2009 news broke that Tiger Woods had crashed his SUV into a tree outside his Jupiter home following an argument with his wife. Over the next few weeks the most scandalous details of his personal life begin to unravel amid reports of multiple extramarital affairs. Woods was never the same following the incident.

However, despite all these unfortunate events, Woods managed to put together one of the most impressive runs in sports history. Racking up 79 wins on the PGA Tour, just three shy of Sam Snead’s record, winning 14 majors in a span of just ten years while also setting the Master’s scoring record (270) and a record margin of victory (12 strokes). Woods would also set a scoring margin record for any major  when he won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes.

So what’s so exciting about Tiger’s most recent return? He not only looks healthier physically, but he does mentally as well. In the last few weeks we’ve seen a hint of the same swagger and confidence the old Tiger carried himself with on and off the golf course.

“He’s finally healthy again and he’s on his way back to being competitive week in and week out,” says Degelmann. This is true; since he’s made his return in 2018, he’s made the cut in three of four tournaments and has been in the top 25 in all three, his best finish coming at the valspar this past weekend finishing tied for second, just one stroke behind the lead.

When asked what he believes Tiger competing again does for the game of golf as a whole, Degelmann said, “It’s great. When Tiger is doing well the game is doing well. He draws a lot of attention and that’s always good.” Just how large of a following Tiger has and his ability to draw a crowd are shown by the sea of fans who follow him around at every tournament, whether he’s in contention or not.

The biggest question remaining is whether or not Tiger will win the five majors needed to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors. From what we’ve seen in the past few weeks is promising and Woods has showed that he still has a lot of good golf left in him. However as of now, achieving this goal seems a bit far fetched, but Woods has earned himself a reputation of being able to do the impossible time and time again, even when the odds are heavily stacked against him.

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The Return of The G.O.A.T.