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Neither Will Wade nor Thrones could top Tiger’s comeback!

by J.W. Miller on 04/15/19

Several unlikely comebacks dominated the news over the weekend, but be honest with me. LSU basketball coach Will Wade’s comeback receives points for the sheer unlikelihood amid a seemingly incriminating FBI wiretap. But he’s back. And you have to give the Pelicans a nod that their comeback to relevance might have begun with the news that the respected David Griffin has agreed to become their head of basketball operations. And a few days ago, weren’t you thinking that the biggest comeback of the weekend would be renewal of the Game of Thrones franchise after two years? That would have been my choice until Tiger Woods got hot. 

It’s been almost a full day since Woods did the seemingly impossible, returning from a decade of injuries, scandal and personal purgatory to win the most coveted trophy in golf, the Masters green jacket. It was Tiger’s fifth jacket, his first in 14 years, and his first major victory in 11 years, but if you watched Sunday’s final round you know all that. People who are paid to comment on the flow of sports are oozing hosannas on the achievement of perhaps the greatest comeback in sports history. Honest, some have called it that! 

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but in trying to put a different spin from my little corner of the universe, I can’t think of another that tops it. The term “comeback” requires high achievement, which we saw when Woods came from three strokes off the lead with six holes to grab a two-stroke lead with two holes to play and ultimate victory. But the term also implies failure of some sort, something ill-fitting and just plain bad that he had to come back from. That occurred when marital infidelity toppled him from his admirable perch in which he had spent 683 weeks (more than 13 years) as the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world. That is 352 more weeks that the No. 2 man on the list, Greg Norman. 

We remember with equal doses of revulsion or regret the images of Woods’ decline. The press conference admitting his infidelity, the police mug shots taken after the accident that he says was caused by medication, the pathetic attempts to compete that forced him to pack up his clubs and go home in the middle of tournaments. Physical deterioration likely brought on by the tremendous torque of his swing prompted back surgeries that turned Woods into a recluse who seldom went outside. For years, his physical recovery received less attention than the back page snippets such as his three-year relationship with world class skier Lindsey Vonn. 

But then things began to change. Woods’ body began to heal, he assumed the role of a parent with daughter Sam and son Charlie and he began to compete again. Last year, Woods gave us hints that he was again a factor when he contended for the 2018 PGA Championship and the British Open before a memorable Tour Championship victory. Still, this week he was a 10-to-1 long shot to win his first major since 2008, but he shook off three bogies in the first ten holes to outlast his rivals’ gang immolation. Watching the back nine, I thought of the Chinese proverb: “If you sit at the bank of the river long enough, you will watch the bodies of your enemies float by.” 

The buzzle now turns to the question that seemed so assured when Woods was 32: Can he beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 majors? The Masters was No. 15, but Woods has won 81 tournaments, eight more than Jack, and only one behind all-time leader Sam Snead. At 43, how many more good years does Woods have to give both records a shot? Nicklaus’ last Masters was in 1986 when he was 46. Does anybody remember the 1998 Masters when Jack was two strokes off the lead on Sunday only to fade at the end? After Woods sealed his comeback on Sunday, I would not count him out. 

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