Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright....
H1 Club resident hack Pete Richardson reflects on Tiger Woods’ amazing win in the tour-ending Tour Championship.
Remember when Tiger Woods announced he was taking a break from golf after revelations emerged about his private life?
Do you remember where you were?
I do because I was sat in a television news studio in South Africa about to go live into the 6pm news to debate the impact it would have on the golf industry.
It was such a massive story I think we have forgotten the impact it had. It was huge. It was beamed live into the main evening news as far away as South Africa and a panel was assembled to discuss it.
Would he ever play again? Would the golf industry survive without Tiger? What would happen to TV advertising and sponsorship for golf tournaments? Would there ever be another Tiger Woods?
Well there is another Tiger Woods – buts amazingly it’s the same Tiger Woods.
And he’s not just back after sorting out his private life – the reason he initially quit. He is back after major, career-threatening surgery and all that private life stuff seems to be just a distant memory.
It is a monumental achievement and all at H1 Club applaud and honour what has to be the greatest sporting comeback of all time.
I can find only two that come close.
Ben Hogan survived a car crash to win the US Open in 1950. Hogan collided with a bus on a foggy night in 1949, ending up with a double-fracture of his pelvis, a fractured collarbone, a fractured left ankle, broken ribs and a blood clot which proved to be near fatal. Just 11 months later he won the US Open for a second time, his fourth major title. He went on to win nine majors in total.
Niki Lauda was the reigning Formula One world champion and had built a seemingly insurmountable lead in the 1976 standings, winning four of the season's first six races, when he crashed early in the German Grand Prix. His Ferrari burst into flames and Lauda was trapped in the wreckage, suffering severe burns to his head and lung damage.
He later fell into a coma but returned to finish fourth at the Italian Grand Prix six weeks later. Despite the disfigurement suffered in the accident, Lauda allowed only enough reconstructive surgery to enable his eyelids to function normally. His scars and trademark cap remained with him the rest of his career. Although he narrowly lost the '76 championship to Briton James Hunt, Lauda captured his second title the following year and retired in 1979. Three years later, he returned and picked up his third world championship in 1984, before calling it quits 12 months later.
Now we have Woods and in the modern era of sports professionalism and global competitiveness I would argue his achievement is at the very least equal to but more likely greater than those of Hogan and Lauda.
Think about it – in 2009 he was gone. In 2017 he was gone again – this time his back was gone as well.
Now aged 42 his victory in Atlanta was his 80th PGA Tour title - only fellow American Sam Snead has more - but his first since August 2013.
And since 2013 how many amazing golfers have sprung forth from all across the globe?
And yet Tiger has reached the top again. He may not yet be world number but isn’t that just a matter of time?
He is already joint favourite to win the US Masters in April next year. Joint favourite - and this time last year I bet you’d have got better odds on an alien becoming president of the USA.
Lets’ not go there.
So Woods is a winner again, ad not just of any event – he beat the best 29 players on planet earth.
No, he didn’t just beat them, he battered them in a way the Woods of 2000 used.
And think about that for a minute – almost last century when we had just recovered from the threat of the end of the world as the clocks ticked over to 2000. That was when Tiger held all four major titles at once, having won the US Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship in 2000 and the Masters in 2001 - a feat dubbed the Tiger slam.
Now 18 years later he has won again and won something big.
For this week’s Ryder Cup it must be the best news for the organisers, promoters and sponsors – global TV audiences will be off the scale. If there were any tickets left they will be gone in a heartbeat.
Maybe not such good news if you are wearing the blue of the European team over the weekend and looking across the tee box facing possibly the greatest sportsman of all time.
Tiger is back.