Masters victory shows that Woods is still capable of pulling off major wins
No comeback by Tiger Woods was ever going to be complete without victory in a major.
Now the question becomes how many more he can win.
So much appeal of that red shirt beneath a green jacket involved looking back at all Woods had to overcome to reach that moment – a Masters champion once again – that so many thought would never happen.
The fourth surgery to rebuild his left knee. The private affairs that became public, shattering his image. The balky back that required four more surgeries, the last one out of desperation because he could barely walk, much less play golf. And a new generation of stars he inspired who were younger, stronger and capable.
That’s why Woods celebrated his 15th major like never before – fist pumps without a club in his hand, because he couldn’t help himself walking off the 18th green.
“Overwhelming,” he said with a voice still hoarse from all that screaming.
He went 28 majors over 11 years without winning, and no sooner did he stretch his arms into that familiar green jacket – “Ah, it fits,” he said in Butler Cabin – was he asked about the 18 majors Jack Nicklaus won to set the gold standard in golf.
“I don’t know if he’s worried or not,” Woods said. “I’m sure he’s home just chilling and watching.”
Whether the record is in play, Nicklaus can expect plenty of questions. For years, he could rarely get through any conversation without someone asking him whether he thought Woods could top his mark.
“I thought for a long time that he was going to win again,” Nicklaus said on Sunday night. “The next two majors are at Bethpage, where he has won, and at Pebble Beach, where he has won.
“So, he has got me shaking in my boots, guys.”
The last part was delivered in jest. The first part was factual.
Woods winning his fifth Masters was not entirely out of the blue. He capped the year of his great comeback last year by winning the Tour Championship in typical Tiger fashion, by building a lead on a tough, fast course at East Lake and not giving anyone much of a chance to catch him.
He also briefly led on Sunday in the British Open, and was one shot behind on the back nine at the PGA Championship.
“The win at East Lake was a big confidence-booster for me because I had come close last year a couple times,” Woods said. “Still have to get it across the finish line, and I didn’t quite do it.”
The PGA Championship is a month away at Bethpage Black, where Woods was dominant as ever in going wire-to-wire in the 2002 US Open, and was right there with a chance in the 2009 US Open except for a putter that refused to co-operate.
And then it’s the US Open in June at Pebble Beach. Woods won there in 2000 by a record 15 shots.