The Greatest Comeback In Golf

By Connor Frandzel ('21), Contributing Writer

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On Sunday, September 25, Tiger Woods officially completed one of the greatest comebacks in golf history. But don’t take my word for it. Major sports publications such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest all echoed the same claim: Greatest. Comeback. In. Golf. Tiger’s peer, Tommy Fleetwood, the 11th ranked player in the world, one-upped everybody when he tweeted, “We’ve just witnessed the greatest comeback of all time!” Some might debate that claim, but not me.

Tiger’s Tour Championship victory against the top 30 players in the world put him in an elite group. In fact, with 80 PGA tour wins, he is now second behind Hall of Fame golfer Sam Snead.   

Five years ago this seemed all but impossible.

Watching athletes trash their careers with bad behavior is nothing new. If you follow any sport, you can recall at least one example of a great player getting caught up in the dark side of fame and fortune. It was a shock to the sporting world when Tiger ended up on that list. His reputation took a hit, and all the distractions affected his golf game.

From 2003 to 2008 Tiger was a shadow of his once dominant self.  At one point, the former #1 player was ranked #1943 in the world. And then he had his spine fused, which meant he’d be out of the game for at least a year.

As an aspiring collegiate golfer myself, I appreciate how hard this game is and how hard it must be to come back from great adversity. I never thought I’d get to see the dominant Tiger again, in part because I assumed that a guy like Tiger, who has always been successful, would not know how to get back to the top.

But Tiger proved that a lifetime of hard work teaches you how to persevere. His comeback from back surgery was not pretty to watch, and it looked like he might never find his game again, but true to the legend, and true to the hours and hours he spent playing as a kid while his father coached and guided his career, he started to turn the corner on mediocrity and headed toward the winner’s circle.

For weeks leading up to his amazing comeback victory Tiger was showing glimpses of his former greatness, but he couldn’t maintain a consistent streak long enough to carry him to victory. For a while, I figured that would be all we’d ever see again–flashes of greatness, followed by a quiet retirement when the frustration became unbearable. But then it all came back to him, and I and the rest of the golfing world can’t wait to see what’s next.

But his comeback is not only about his victory in the Tour Championship tournament. It’s about the road he took to get there. He showed that he knew how to struggle, and to face humiliation, and still show up for the next tournament. Tiger does not care about the money anymore–he is the all-time money leader in the sport. For him, finding the old joy in doing what he loves most, playing golf, is worth more than the size of his bank account. I’m convinced that Tiger has a new appreciation for the the sport he has dominated for years, and I want to believe that he will not take what he has for granted. Tiger Woods truly is amazing.