Image Courtesy of The Guardian
By Chris Carey
His 2019 comeback was one of legend. Tiger Woods came off years of back surgeries, public scandals, lackluster performances, and whispers of a prodigy who had lived long enough to become the villain and not die a hero.
Then, at the 2019 Masters, he shocked the golf world by shouldering the green jacket he first wore 22 years prior in 1997. For many, the Tiger of recent years is much different than the standoffish, often cold, and shark-like competitor of the past.
The masses have grown along with Tiger. We’ve felt his missteps as personally as if they were our own. We’ve celebrated his triumphs. We made him a demigod since his explosive emergence in the late nineties and we have not looked back.
To that end, he is more than a man, more than a competitor. Many see him as invincible and as an eternal staple of the game as he has been for the past quarter-century. Time and again through his storied career of 82 PGA Tour wins including 15 Major Tournament victories, Woods has recovered from what many viewed as the point of no return.
He has gone through five separate back surgeries, including a spinal fusion in 2017. That was not enough to stop him. He has had more surgeries and operations than The Six Million Dollar Man, and each time has come back with victory after victory. Oftentimes, he has won or come close to winning while suffering through injuries and pain that could tranquilize Tiger’s namesake in the wild.
That is why on February 23 of 2021, when Tiger Woods crashed his car driving a winding strip of road in Southern California at 7 a.m., the golf world held its breath in anticipation of some sliver of hope that this too would be only a momentary setback for the 45-year-old legend.
Unfortunately, as more news has come out of the extent of the injuries, that sliver of hope becomes much narrower.
Dr. Anish Mahajan described the injury, saying “comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins.”
By all accounts, that is not a glowing report on Tiger’s readiness to play. Already recovering from his most recent back surgery, Tiger had his sights set on the 2021 Masters as his re-entry to professional golf.
Now it is doubtful as to when, or even if, that re-entry will occur. To show their solidarity with Tiger as he goes through recovery after these surgeries, numerous golfers on the PGA and Champions Tours wore Tiger’s signature red shirt and black pants Sunday finish outfit.
In response to that outpouring of support from colleagues, friends, and even rivals, Tiger tweeted, “it is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the TV and saw all the red shirts. To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.”
As far as his future after this most recent accident, whether he plays professionally again or not, his legacy and tremendous impact on the game of golf is not in doubt.