The Simpsonian

The Return of Tiger Woods

by Austin Hronich, Director of Photography

What if I told you Tiger Woods would rise from the depths of four back surgeries and a DUI and earn his 80th PGA Tour victory and become the 13th ranked golfer in the world?

Woods made his return to the golf world back in December at the Hero World Challenge. The event wasn’t a normally scheduled PGA tour event but called in all the world’s top players. Woods was just seven months removed from back fusion surgery. It was his fourth back procedure since 2014, and he was recently arrested for driving under the influence. Hopes of his return looked slim when he was ranked the #1,999 golfer in the world on Nov. 25, 2017.

The first tournament to spark the flame was the Honda Classic, where the odds were 60-1 for Woods. He came out of the tournament taking a solo 12th place finish driving up his world ranking to #389. One impressive stat from the tournament was his tee shot on No. 10 during the third round that totaled 361 yards. Again, he’s a 42-year-old man who has had four back surgeries. At this point the match was lit, but the fire still hadn’t started.

The next two tournaments Woods finished T-2 and T-5 boosting him all the way to #105 before golf’s first and most historic major, The Masters. Woods has not seen the Augusta grounds since 2015 but was confident he could claim the green jacket. After the weekend Woods finished T-32 and jumped to #88 in the world golf rankings. Just like years of the past Woods took almost a month off of golf before the grueling summer schedule.

After a disappointing missed cut in the U.S. Open, Woods flew across the pond trying to capture the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. On the 10th tee on Sunday, his name was alone at the top of the leaderboard, the internet and social media blew up. The golfing world was at a stand still until the end of the tournament to see if Woods could pull it off. Woods finished T-6 which was his first top ten finish since 2015 jumping him to #50 in the world.

The last major of the year, the PGA Championship, was held in St. Louis where yours truly witnessed ungodly crowds following Woods. I stood on the 12th tee on Wednesday for a practice round, when a swarm of people gathered around. I knew exactly who was coming up to the tee next.

Looking over my shoulder, I saw the crowd extended to 15-20 people deep all around the tee box and continued down the fairway. I have never seen a bigger crowd following any golfer or athlete before. Woods did not disappoint his fans, finishing second overall in what it seemed like to be his best tournament since his return to the sport.

The last tournament of year before the Ryder Cup, Woods looked like he could take it all. Opening with rounds of 65, 68 and 65, Woods had the lead going into the last day. Playing in the last group on a Sunday was something familiar for Woods. Even if you weren’t a fan of golf you knew what was happening that Sunday, it was all over social media. After pairing the last hole Woods secured his 80th career tour victory, jumping the world golf rankings to #13, and securing a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

While chances looked slim and people had their doubts, Woods silenced all the haters and made his return to golf a memorable one. Woods is still the most talented golfer ever to play the game and remains the toughest competitor I have ever seen.

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