Date: September 24, 2018
Author: Martin Blake

Tiger wins again: history in Atlanta


Tiger Woods closed out his 80th PGA Tour victory and climaxed one of sport’s most incredible comebacks at the Tour Championship in Atlanta today.

Resplendent in Sunday red yet not necessarily at his peak, Woods ground out his first win since August, 2013 before an enormous crowd at East Lakes, fighting back tears as he made his way up the 18th hole with a two-shot lead.

The former world No. 1 had not won a tournament since the Bridgestone Invitational five years ago.

In the meantime he has had a spinal fusion that was a last-ditch attempt to save his career, not to mention his separation from wife Elin Nordegren, his public apology for cheating on her, a 2017 visit to rehab for addiction to painkilling medications and more.

Not since Ben Hogan won the US Open in 1950 a year after a serious car accident in which he fractured his pelvis, collarbone and left ankle has there been a comeback of this nature in the sport.

In fact, the 42-year-old Woods’ dramas far outstrip Hogan’s and his fall from grace was as spectacular as any figure in sports history.

Woods shot one-over par 71 to win by two shots from Billy Horschel, having led by three shots coming into the final round. Justin Rose, the Englishman, finished tied-fourth to win the $US10 million Fedex Cup bonus with Woods in second place.

But there was no famous last-day charge. Leading by five shots at one point, he limped in with two bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes that left him in danger of throwing it away. Closing pars at the 17th and 18th were enough though, ending with a tap-in from a few centimetres.

“It was just a grind out there, I loved every bit of it, the fight and the grind and the tough conditions,’’ he said. “You just have to suck it up and hit shots.’’

Woods was highly emotional. “As the year progressed I proved that I could play, I found a swing and put the pieces together and I knew I could do it again. I was having a hard time not crying coming up the last hole. I said: ‘Hey, I could blade this thing out of bounds. Suck it up and let’s hit some shots here’. Once I got the ball on the green then I gave Joey (LaCava, his caddie) a high-five. It was done. I knew I could handle it from there.’’

He will head to France this week for the Ryder Cup back somewhere near the peak of his powers, and with Sam Snead’s record of 82 US Tour victories in his immediate sights. As it stands, Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championship wins, the great landmark of the sport, may not be safe either.

The Australians had a quiet week. Jason Day was the best of them in 18th place, Cameron Smith was 20th and Marc Leishman 21st.  Smith ended up 12th in the Fedex Cup standings, earning a $US290,000 bonus, and was the highest-placed Aussie on the season-long points list.