Sport is not short of great personal comebacks but Tiger Woodss Masters victory on Sunday may overshadow them all, including Muhammad Ali, Niki Lauda and Monica Seles

In the outpouring of 2014 Tiger Woods was at work on the stray around the back of his house, practising his short game like ever. Daytimes earlier he had shot a 78 on the final day of the Cadillac Championship, the worst fourth-round score of their own lives. His back had been spasming but he felt he had to get out and activity. He stroked a bust kill over a bunker and the time he had finished the shake he fell out flat on his back, overcome with a agony so severe that he could hardly breathe, let alone get back on his foot. He was out of hearing distance and he did not have his mobile phone on him, so there was nothing he could do but lie there and wait for someone to come.

It was his seven-year-old daughter, Sam, who found him.

“Daddy,” she said, what are you doing lying on the ground ?”

” Sam, thank goodness you’re here ,” he told her.” Can you go tell the people inside to try to get the cart out to help me back up ?”

“What’s wrong?”

” My back’s not doing very good .”


” Yes again, Sam, can you please run get those guys ?”

There are an awful mas of Lumbers floors but this one, which exist in the excellent biography Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian wrote last year, always seemed one of the most revealing because it speaks to the pain he has accepted, the dishonour he has suffered and the way in which it has all been laid out for the rest of us to see. Here is Groves, the great athlete, helpless as an upturned defect; Groves, the proud endorse, pleading with his kid to return someone who can get him back on his feet; Groves, a human so intensely private that he used to refuse to tell people where he would be playing the very next month, having that helplessness picked over in time detail by parties like me in print and on TV.

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Tiger Woods since triumphing his last major

Tiger Woods has won his fifth Masters title and first major in 11 years after win in Augusta on Sunday.

It has been a long road back for the American, who has suffered numerous traumata and off-course problems.


On November 27, 2009 reports emerged that Timbers had been injured in a car accident near his Florida home after crashing with a fire hydrant and a tree. Over the next days and weeks the reasons behind the clang became clearer, He said he had “let his family down” with “transgressions” and announcing an indefinite break from golf. He lost major patronizes including Gatorade and Gillette over his revealings of multiple adulteries and he and his wife Elin Nordegren divorced.

Phoenix not rising

Woods , now determined to return to the pinnacle of golf following his self-imposed times in the wilderness, recorded the worst round of his busines in January 2015 as he filmed an 11 -over-par 82 in Arizona. His second-round performance at the Waste Management Phoenix Open left him 13 over and final in a 132 -man field. Lumbers told reporters subsequentlies: “It’s golf, we all have epoches like this.”

Don’t call it a comeback

In June 2016 he announced he was unable to compete at the US Open, the second largest major of its first year, following two back functionings in the space of six weeks. He culminated a 15 -month absence from video games in November but in January 2017 he missed the cut in his first PGA Tour event in virtually 18 months, departing the Farmers Insurance Open after finishing his first two rounds on four over par.

The master misses the Masters

The former nature number one was unable to contest the 2017 Masters. The chance to compete at Augusta 20 years since he first won the green casing was denied to Woods who continued to suffer from nerve pain which had involved three operations in the cavity of 19 months.

Under the influence ?

In a throwback to his indiscretions of autumn 2009, in May 2017 Lumbers was arrested on hunch of driving under the influence in the early hours of Memorial Day. He received a year of probation after pleading guilty to reckless driving and was ordered to undergo 50 hours of community service.

Victory again

In September 2018 Timbers killed a one-over 71 for a two-shot victory at the Tour Championship in Atlanta – the 80 th win of his PGA Tour career and his first in more than five years.

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There are plenty more. One could talk about those first frightful minutes in 2009 where reference is gate-crashed his SUV into a tree or the weeks after, when he closed over all the windows of his home with butcher’s article to keep the paparazzi cameras out. Or the private lunch at a Beverly Hills Country Club in 2016 when he had to walk up a flight of stairs backwards because it was the only way he could make it, or how, when he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2017, you are not able to even tell the police if he was in Florida or California, whether he was coming home or going from it.

On Monday morning the talk around Augusta and everywhere else they play golf was all about sweeter things, like how high this succes figured among Woods’s 15 majors and exactly where it graded among the great sporting comebacks. Now there is no easy response to that because one has to stack up hundreds of different accomplishments across dozens of separate epoches, which of course was precisely why everyone was chatting about it.

How do you assess what Woods did here against, say, the direction Niki Lauda finished runner-up in the F1 championship the same season he gate-crashed at the Nurburgring? Lauda was back hastening six weeks after he came out of coma. Or Mario Lemieux, who is heading the Pittsburgh Penguins to their first President’s Trophy in the very same season he finished his radioactivity care for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, while he had a back injury so severe he could not put on his own skates and roughly divulge Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record while he was at it? How does it compare with Lester Piggott winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile at the age of 54, only 10 daylights after he finished a year in prison for fiscal fraud? Or Monica Seles’s victory at the Australian Open in 1996, three years after she was stabbed in the back on tribunal in Hamburg?

Injury and personal troubles seemed to leave Tiger Woods a spent force by 2017. Photograph: Warren Little/ Getty Images

And all that is before one gets to the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali, who won back the heavyweight championship seven years after he was deprived of it and had his boxing licence suspended because he refused to be drafted to fight in Vietnam.

Woods was reluctant to claim it was even the best comeback in his own sport. He points to Ben Hogan, who won the US Open a year and a half after he virtually died in a vehicle disintegrate. Hogan was hit by an oncoming bus. He hurled himself across his wife’s lap to protect her from the impact and, while she was uninjured, he suffered a broken pelvis, collarbone, ankle and ribs. They ameliorated again but he suffered with blood clots for the rest of his life and had to have emergency surgery. He was told he would never walk again and then he went on to win another six majors.

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And hitherto, for all that, one can say this much: Woods’s tale is unique in one important space, unlike all those others, in that he did not suffer physically or personally but physically and personally. He has been tormented in figure and soul, his figure ended, his back smashed and fused back all going together, his reputation shredded and the bits and pieces strewn out for the rest of us to pick over. And here he was, sauntering off that 18 th light-green, Masters champion, with their own families around him, having place it all back together again.

” You never give up ,” says Lumbers.” That’s a made. You always crusaded. Precisely giving up’s never in the equation .”


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