Tiger Woods caps comeback with win in Tour Championship
ATLANTA — Tiger Woods, in his Sunday red shirt, both arms raised in victory on the 18th green.
For so many years, the scene was familiar.
This time, it was surreal.
“I can’t believe I pulled this off,” Woods said Sunday during the trophy presentation at the Tour Championship.
And at that moment, Woods was overcome with emotion and paused.
After two back surgeries six weeks apart, he couldn’t lie down, sit or walk without pain. Golf was the least of his concerns, so much that he once said anything else he achieved would be “gravy.”
One year ago, while recovering from a fourth back surgery, he still had no idea if he could come back to the highest level of golf.
“Just to be able to compete and play again this year, that’s a hell of a comeback,” he said.
Woods delivered the perfect ending to his amazing return from back surgeries with a performance out of the past. He left the competition feeling hopeless as he built a five-shot lead early and then hung on for a 1-over-par 71 and a two-shot victory over Billy Horschel.
It was the 80th victory of his PGA Tour, two short of the career record held by Sam Snead that is now very much in play. And it was his first victory in more than five years, dating to the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational.
This felt just as big as a major, maybe better considering where Woods had been.
Several players, from Zach Johnson to Rickie Fowler to Horschel, waited to greet him. It was Johnson who unveiled red shirts at the Ryder Cup two years ago in the team room that said, “Make Tiger Great Again.”
“They knew what I was struggling with,” Woods said. “It was special to see them.”
Woods played only one PGA Tour event over two seasons because of his back. Off the golf course, he had to overcome the embarrassment of a DUI arrest in the early morning of Memorial Day in 2017 when he was found asleep at the wheel, later found to have a concoction of pain medication in his system.
He finished at 11-under 269 and won $1.62 million, along with a $3 million bonus for finishing second in the FedEx Cup.
The only disappointment — a minor one under the circumstances — was realizing as he came down the 18th that Rose had made birdie to finish in a three-way tie for fourth, which gave him the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.
Without that birdie, Woods would have won his third FedEx Cup title after starting at No. 20 going into the Tour Championship.
“Congrats, Rosie,” Woods told him. “World No. 1, hell of a season.”
Actually, former world No. 1 for Rose. His four bogeys over the last 10 holes cost him the No. 1 ranking back to Dustin Johnson, who shot 67 and finished third.
But this wasn’t about the FedEx Cup or even the world ranking.
This is Tiger’s big day, and nothing was going to change it.
Woods had never lost when leading by three shots or more going into the final round. That was when he was regularly winning multiple times every season, compiling trophies at a rate never before seen in golf.
Was anything different having gone more than five years without winning?
Rose had said it was a bit more unknown, and “there’s a lot on it for him” as well as everyone else.
A year ago, there was no guarantee anyone would see much of Woods, much less Woods winning.
He’s back again.
The next stop for Woods is to board a plane with the rest of his U.S. teammates for France and the Ryder Cup.
There’s no telling.