Published 15 April 2019
The Masters 2019 delivered a spectacle that many golf fans thought they would never see again. Tiger Woods making his comeback and winning another major.
Eleven years on from his previous major win in 2008, the 43-year-old surprised everyone to win at Augusta National by two-shots.
Woods has now claimed his 15th major championship, putting him three off the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus.
Former golf journalist and editor of Golf Monthly, Barry Ward, believes that Woods may be able to break the record.
“If he retains his level of fitness, he could well emulate Nicklaus’ tally of 18 majors. With three needed to reach that level it’s possible, but the standards these days are so high and the top players are no longer overawed by him,” he said.
Going into the final day at The Masters in joint second place, Woods was two shots behind Italian Francesco Molinari. Many people did not believe that he could win.
However, Woods played cautiously and waited for Molinari to make a mistake. On the 12th hole, the Italian made a double bogey, whilst Woods played the percentage game.
The usually steady Italian golfer continued to falter with Woods making a par on the 18th hole to seal a famous victory.
Ward noticed a difference to Woods’ swing on the final day of the Masters.
“His swing was more controlled, sedate even. He appeared to be making allowances for his physical shortcomings and I had the feeling that he had adjusted his club selections to accommodate this. He wasn’t trying to hit the ball out of sight, as he did previously and was frequently out-driven, even by Molinari in the final round,” he said.
Many golfers view this as one of the greatest comebacks in golfing, and maybe even sporting history.
Woods’ story is like no other. From dominating the game for decades to being turned against following the news of his multiple infidelities and his recent drug case and persistent back injuries left many accepting that Woods’ glory days were over.
The elation of his celebrations on the 18th green capsulated a man who had suffered for too long and paid the price for his previous mistakes.
Kym Larratt, Assistant Professional at The Leicestershire Golf Club said, “I know people said it before but now that he has done this with his comeback, I think a lot of people will say he was probably the best. Both Tiger and Nicklaus were fantastic in their own rights and how they’ve done everything, what they’ve done for the game; it’s hard to call.”
Larratt, who was formerly on the Ladies European Tour and Ladies European Access Tour from 2010-2016, is excited to see the impact of Woods’ win.
“It is going to do a world of wonders for golf in general”, she said.
“For all golf clubs hopefully it will get people out again and playing. I think it will really put golf back on the map for people in terms of the sport and increase participation levels,” Larratt continued.
Ward, who began reporting in 1961, is still yet to decide whether Woods is the greatest of all-time. “This is impossible to say considering the great golfers who have lived over the centuries. The game has changed so much even in my time,” he said.
“Equipment now is much more forgiving, the ball now so true and course condition far better than when I began playing in 1954. I saw Nicklaus at his best when other players simply couldn’t handle his degree of expertise and concentration,” he continued.
Whilst Ward is unsure about whether Woods is the greatest, he appreciates what he has done for golf.
“Tiger is one of the finest but there are many others in the pantheon,” he said.
Ward explained, “What sets Tiger aside is that he is an athlete as well as a great golfer. He set new standards in physical fitness and forced his competitors to follow his example, which is one reason, equipment aside, why top golfers are now hitting the ball such incredible distances.”
Larratt shares a similar view to Ward about what Woods has done for golf.
She said, “I know Tiger has not got as many majors but what he’s done for golf in general as well, I would certainly put him as the best golfer of all time. Definitely now after his Masters victory.”
Breaking on to the scene in 1996, Woods inspired a new generation of golfers and helped to combat the negative labels within golf, which is often viewed as an elitist sport. Not only did Woods break records, he also broke racial barriers and represented overlooked communities within America.
With the next major now the PGA Championship, which will be played on the 16 to 19 May, many people will be looking out for Woods and wondering if he can emulate his magic at The Masters to take a step closer to history.