Again, Tiger claws his way out of the woods
• Woods’ victory, a study in resilience – PGA Nigeria Tour ex-boss
• Serious-minded Nigerian pro golfers can learn from Woods’ experience- WAGT president
• With hard work, determination, success is sure- Odoh
On a Sunday evening that Liverpool Football Club of England made a bold statement in their determination to lift the 2018/2019 English Premiership League (EPL) title, with a 2-0 spanking of Chelsea Football Club, the fear that the latter could miss out from a top four finish, and by extension next season’s Champions League made EPL followers, especially fans of The Blues across the globe gloomy.
That was not for long as shortly after that, and in the United States the greatest sports news of the day wafted across the world brightening the sporting firmament. Eldrick Tont Woods, better known as Tiger Woods had just won the Masters, 11 years after he won the last, and 22 years after he won his first.
The victory was via a score of 13-under 275, two strokes ahead of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepa and Xander Schauffele by two strokes.Lending credence to the importance of the Woods’ victory, was the fact that all major and minor news outfits, be they general news, or sports-specific, in far-flung parts of the world devoted space and airtime to give their readers and listeners this cheery, soothing news. Importantly, the massive outpour of emotion also reflected the tremendous goodwill the golf icon enjoys from people across religious, ethnic and racial divides, as well as the global attention that he has attracted to the gentleman’s sport.
Woods’ victory at the 83rd Masters in Augusta, is instructive in very many ways. First, it helps him to rekindle his dream of catching up with, and “dethroning” legend, Jack Nicklaus, who has to his credit, 18 major titles. Secondly, it affords the American professional golfer the opportunity to right his wrongs after falling from grace to grass due largely to his personal failings.
After Woods won his 14th major at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open, many were wondering when he would slow down, but a nerve-wrecking sex scandal ignited what snowballed into a disastrous 11-year downward spiral for one of the greatest golfers to ever live.With his mercurial image soiled by the sex scandal, sponsors including AT&T, Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette cut ties with him leading to one of the fastest and most shocking downfall in sporting history. As if that was not enough headache, Woods also went through a messy divorce from Elin Nordegren, whom he paid an estimated $100m.
His health equally nose-dived as he underwent knee surgeries, four back surgeries in 2014, 2015 and 2017 all of which left him unable to get out of bed, much less swing a club. Consequently, he went two years without featuring in a major. To add to the misery, an embarrassing Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrest as a result of the concoction of painkillers he took to fuse his lower spine made headlines across the globe about two years ago.
WOODS’ 15th major victory, according to The Inquirer was three short of the standard set by Jack Nicklaus. Apart from being Woods’ 81st victory on the PGA Tour, it is also one title away from the career record held by Sam Snead.In analysing the final day of the comeback, which goes well beyond the two-shot deficit the American erased before a delirious audience that watched memories turn into reality at Augusta National Golf Course, the publication said it was also the first time Woods won a major when trailing going into the final round, and he needed some help from Francesco Molinari, the 54-hole leader, who still was up two shots heading into the heart of Amen Corner.
“And that’s when all hell broke loose at Augusta.Molinari’s tee shot on the par-3 12th never had a chance, hitting the bank and tumbling into Rae’s Creek for a double bogey. Until then, Molinari had never trailed in a round that began early in threesomes to finish ahead of storms. And then it seemed as though practically everyone had a chance.“Six players had a share of the lead at some point on the back. With the final group still in the 15th fairway, there was a five-way tie for the lead. And that’s when Woods seized control, again with plenty of help.
“Molinari’s third shot clipped a tree and plopped straight down in the water for another double bogey. Woods hit onto the green, setting up a two-putt birdie for his first lead of the final round. The knockout punch was a tee shot into the 16th that rode the slope just by the cup and settled 2 feet away for birdie and a two-shot lead with two holes to play.Xander Schauffele failed to birdie the par-5 15th and scrambled for pars the rest of the way for a 68. Dustin Johnson made three straight birdies late in the round, but he got going too late and had to settle for a 68 and a return to No. 1 in the world,” the publication said.
In the final analysis, Wood finished at 13-under 275 and became, at 43, the oldest Masters champion since Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket at 46 in 1986. That for years has stood as Augusta’s defining moment.“This is definitely, probably one of the greatest comebacks I think anybody’s ever seen,” said Brooks Koepka, one of four players from the final two groups who hit into the water on No. 12, rallied with an eagle on the 13th, narrowly missed another eagle on the 15th and was the last player with a chance.
THE last time Woods won at Torrey Pines, his first child was just about one-year-old, and so he wanted his growing children to see him win in real life instead of the “YouTube legend,” he once said they see him as. His kids, 11-year-old daughter, Sam, and 10-year-old son, Charlie, were at the British Open when he led briefly. They couldn’t make it to East Lake last September, when he won the Tour Championship for his first victory in five years.
So, “I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice,” he said. “To let them see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope it’s something they’ll never forget.”BORN on December 30, 1975, Woods is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, ranking second in both PGA Tour victories and major championships win. He also hold numerous records in golf. He turned professional in 1996 at the age of 20 after an outstanding junior, college, and amateur golfing career. By the end of April 1997, he had three PGA Tour events under his belt, in addition to his first major- the 1997 Masters, which he won by 12 strokes in a record-breaking performance.
He first made it to the summit of the world rankings in June 1997, that is less than a year after turning professional. His hard work and resilience ensured that throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the American remained the dominant force in golf. For a period of 264 weeks, that is from August 1999 to September 2004, he was the top-ranked golfer in the world. He was briefly dislodged before he retuned to the summit for another 281 weeks, that is from June 2005 to October 2010.During this time he won 13 of golf’s majors, and on 16 occasions placed in the top 10.
For the next decade, the icon’s career was marked by multiple comebacks from both personal problems and injuries culminating in his taking a self-imposed hiatus from professional golf from December 2009 to early April 2010, all in an attempt to resolve marital issues with Miss Nordegren.
For the first time in over a decade, father of two fell to number 58 in the world rankings in November 2011, but fought back once again to reach the No.1 ranking between March 2013 and May 2014. But personal problems, which rocked his world outside of golf, as well as niggling injuries ensured that he plummeted to 1, 499 in the world rankings. And for the first time since turning professional, he competed in only one tournament between August 2015 and January 2018.
Upon his return to regular competition, Woods showed the stuff that champions are made up of and progressed steadily to the top of the game. He won his first tournament in five years at the Tour Championship in September 2018, while last Sunday’s victory at the Masters is his first major in 11 years.Aside honours such as being the World Number One for the most consecutive weeks, and for the greatest total number of weeks by any golfer, his hard work has been rewarded with the PGA Player of the Year for a record 11 times. He has also won the Byron Nelson Award for the lowest adjusted scoring average a record eight times, just as he keeps the record of leading the money list in 10 different seasons. Woods has also won 18 World Golf Championships.
Currently, he leads all active golfers in career major wins and career PGA Tour wins. He is also the youngest player to achieve the career Grand Slam, and only the second golfer (after Nicklaus) to have achieved a career Grand Slam three times. “WOOOOOOO!!!” he roared on the 18th Green as he headed for the scoring room with chants of “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger” echoing so loud as he breezed past the gallery into the waiting arms of his children, mother, girlfriend and Team Tiger Woods to inform them formally that he had completed a cycle that many feared would never reach its natural end.
When Woods won his first green jacket in 1997 to change the ever-exciting world of golf, he simply wrapped his arms around his late father, Earl Woods, who actually introduced him to the sport. Indeed, the euphoria was nothing compared to that of last Sunday’s, where the golfer, now a father, was embracing his children and several others within reach. “I did the same thing to my dad and now I’m the dad with my son doing the same thing. It’s amazing how life evolves, changes,” he told CNN.
He continued: “That was 22 years ago, when my dad was there and then now my son’s there, my daughter was there, my mom’s there. My mom was there 22 years ago and the fact that she’s still around, still kicking, still fighting, goes to show you her resilience. It’s hard to comprehend right now. I mean, honestly it’s only been a few hours out of winning the tournament. I’m still trying to enjoy it and figure out that I actually won it. “I know I have the green jacket on, but it’s just, it’s still, I think it’s going to take a little bit of time to sink in,” the golf icon stated.
THE Internet was equally abuzz as a result of Woods’ victory. On Twitter and other social media platforms, his fans, political leaders, sports icons were simply effusive in praising him for the extraordinary comeback. Tennis ace, Serena Williams communicating via her Twitter handle, @serenawilliams said: “I am literally in tears watching @TigerWoods. This is Greatness like no other. Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow Congrats a million times! I am so inspired. Thank you buddy.”
“A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger,” Nicklaus, who Woods is battling to dethrone tweeted. “I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic!!!”One of the earliest to congratulate Woods was immediate past American President, Barack Hussein Obama, who wrote on his verified Twitter handle @BarackObama, “Congratulations, Tiger! To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.
The incumbent could not be undone on occasions like this hence on his Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump, he wrote, “Love people who are great under pressure. What a fantastic life comeback for a really great guy!On its part, Nike, only seconds after Woods sank a putt on the 18th hole dropped a new Tiger Woods advertisement.
The new promo featuring the 15-time major tournament winner is titled, “Never stop chasing your crazy dream. #justdoit.”“To think a 43-year-old who experienced every high and every low and has just won his 15th major is chasing the same dream as a 3-year-old,” the commercial reads.Commenting on the victory, the pioneer Chief Executive Officer of the PGA Nigeria Tour, Olusola Lawson Jnr described it as “a pleasant surprise that the golfing world expected, albeit sometime later. There’s much fuss because golf needed him to restore the hope of many people in the future of the sport.”
Lawson added that the victory remains “significant learning for Nigerian, as well as all professional sportsmen and women worldwide on the need for them never to give up, as emotional and physical challenges can be overcome by determination, commitment and hard work.“Additionally, the victory brings back a high level of competitiveness to the sport. Dwindling fortunes in television ratings, prize monies, live spectators, merchandising etc, will now receive a positive boost. Young players can now have greater hope in their future as pros. It’s a good development for the sport worldwide.
On his part, the President, West Africa Golf Tour, Mr. Emeka Okatta, described the victory as “too huge and too emotional to him and fans all over the world,” having gone through what he did. “Tiger Woods has made Golf what it’s today. Before his marital challenges, he was the best player for over a decade, but was written off by critics that he would never win a major tournament again in his life. Before his tour championship win last year, Tiger never believed that he could play golf again as a result of his back injuries and surgery. At some point, he could not stand up, was unable to walk, and solely relied on the help of an assistant to standup. Having gone through all this and in less than a year came back won the tour championship and now Masters. It’s huge and too emotional to him and fans all over the world.
While he believes that young Nigerian professional golfers abroad that understand what it requires to be professional players can learn a lot from Woods experience, he regretted that the current crop of pros in the country may not benefit much from the episode “because their orientation is completely wrong. They don’t even understand what is required to be professional players. They don’t practice and when confronted, they tell you that there is no sponsorship, which is not true. There are many sponsors for professional golfers that are willing to brace the odds.”
On what impact Woods’ victory would have on golf, Okatta said it would be “huge. The number of patrons yesterday in Augusta says it all. The Masters last week was the highest gathering of people in the history of sport. Since Woods come back tickets sales has tripled, sponsorship has increased and great level of new players are emerging. This is good for the game of golf. I tell you even here in Nigeria and Africa at large.”
Leader of the Professional Golfers Association of Nigeria (PGAN) Order of Merit, Andrew Oche Odoh, thinks Woods’ Masters victory is “simply phenomenal, and can be regarded as the greatest come back in sports history… when many even thought he was at the end of his career. Some even suggested he should retire. “To come back and win a major with the very last one coming 11yrs ago for a 43 years old is truly remarkable and great for the game of golf,” Odoh stated.
While maintaining that the significant comeback is great for golf in particular and sports in general, he said he and his colleagues can “learn from this remarkable achievement by Woods that we should never give up as hard work and determination is all that it takes to excel. Matter of fact, this is a very inspirational story to all that are in and out of the world of sports.TO the golfing world, Woods victory titillates and terrifies in equal measure. Simply put, while his millions of followers look forward to more exciting times ahead, those that dominated the scene while he wandered in search of peace of mind, and underwent a career-saving spinal fusion surgery are obviously agitated at what becomes of them now that Tiger is out of the woods.
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