Tiger Woods has crossed the fairway on the 18th green thousands of times. Hundreds of them have been preceded by raucous crowds at major tournaments cheering wildly for the iconic golfer.
In the final round of the 2022 Masters on Sunday, he received the same applause on the 18th, except this time it was different. He was not in contention for a title. His demeanor is not that confident. There was a look of despair on his face. He seemed mentally and physically exhausted. He gradually moved up to 47th position and was gone after four rounds equaling a total of 13 overs.
This may be one of the best moments of his life.
About 14 months ago, Woods broke several bones in his right leg during a car accident in California. Many feared that Woods would not survive the accident, which officials determined was caused by driving at high speed. A seat belt saved his life, he said.
Woods also fractured his fibula as well as both the upper and lower parts of his tibia. His ankle bones were damaged and the soft tissues and muscles surrounding the bones were traumatized. Reconstructive surgery involved screws, pins and rods to immobilize his leg. With a serious back injury over the years, it appeared that his professional golfing career was over.
At least he was alive.
He returned to Augusta this week to play in the Masters, a tournament he has won five times in the past, including a memorable comeback for the 2019 title.
It was their first tournament in 17 months, marking the end of the 2020 season. Woods said this week that he would not play until he felt like he could win another green jacket. They competed against the best golfers in the world on Thursday morning on one of the most sought-after golf courses in the world.
Woods did not use a golf cart. He did a 7,475-yard course (one mile long) for four straight days at the foot of the bum. He bent over every time to put the ball on the tee or take it out of the hole.
He finished 1-under and 19th in the first round. He hit a 2-over par on Friday to make the weekend cut. Their journey continued with 78 for 6 overs in cold and humid weather on Saturday and another plus-6 on Sunday. He needed four puts on the last hole on Saturday to double bogey on 18. He was still upbeat after the third round. He looked cool till the 18th hole on Sunday.
However, his walk on the 18th fairway, and up to the green, set off an enthusiastic standing ovation from a packed crowd, who once thought perhaps they would never see Woods competing again.
Woods probably needed this Masters tournament more than the Masters needed him. Fans cheered him on each of the four days – on every hole he played.
Cheer and support are probably a therapy that cannot be found in a hospital or clinic. Real-life exercise for the 46-year-old’s body may be better than any rehab facility.
Former President Donald Trump congratulated Woods after Sunday’s round.
“Great work at The Masters by Tiger Woods, a true champion!” Trump wrote,
Woods has not announced whether he will play multiple tournaments or even the next Major, which is next month’s PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has said that he will play The Open Championship in St Andrews, Scotland this July.
For now, Woods is grateful to be back in a tournament.
“I keep saying it, but I am,” Woods said. “I really am. I really am. Just to get to the point.”
“I don’t think words can really describe where I was a year ago and what my chances were at the time, to be able to finish here and play all four rounds,” he said on Sunday. “Even a month ago, I didn’t know I could pull this off. I think it was a positive, and I have some work to do and look forward to.”
He is finally coming back to normal life. which he considers very valuable.