Tiger Woods in hospital: The 2019 Masters comeback win that underlined his brilliance

By Sports Desk February 24, 2021

Tiger Woods is no stranger to comebacks.

Between 2014 and 2017, when an injury-plagued Woods was barely able to compete at the highest level, let alone seriously contend for honours, there were plenty of compelling storylines in golf's major championships.

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth each won two in succession to suggest a glorious new rivalry was in prospect, while the latter sensationally threw away the Masters in 2016 before producing a remarkable recovery to win the following year's Open. In addition, there were two truly memorable final-day duels, Henrik Stenson edging out Phil Mickelson to win the 2016 Open Championship and Sergio Garcia pipping Justin Rose at Augusta nine months later.

By the time Garcia finally earned major glory at the 74th attempt, it was becoming easy to view Woods' career as a top-level player in the past tense. 

Little more than a month later, the former world number one was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida, following an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine, and a humiliating mugshot of Woods made headlines around the world.

In light of that embarrassing episode and Woods' continued back problems, it was truly incredible to see a resurgent Tiger threaten to win two majors in 2018 before he then ended a five-year victory drought at the Tour Championship.

Yet it turned out the best was still to come. And there can be no doubt that the events of April 14, 2019 at Augusta comfortably trump all of the aforementioned major narratives. If golf was good in Woods' absence, it got a whole lot better when he returned, and the world will hope he has another comeback in him after Tuesday's car accident in Los Angeles.

In winning the Masters for a fifth time, Woods not only added the most remarkable chapter to his stunning career, but he once again proved he is the one athlete who moves the needle like no other.

While the likes of Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Tom Brady, and LeBron James are all rightly recognised as masters of their respective crafts, none of those superstars can match Woods when it comes to the impact they have on their sport.

When Woods is successful, interest in golf is taken to a whole new level, for one simple reason.

As Williams herself tweeted at the time of his Masters triumph, to watch his success was to witness "greatness like no other".

It is essentially impossible to quantify whether Messi is better than Federer, or whether Serena is superior to James, given they are competing in different fields.

Yet it is hard to envisage any active sportsperson commanding more attention than a successful Woods. More than a decade after his period of outrageous dominance in golf ended, he once again reprised his role as sport's most captivating figure, one who somehow regained a majestic aura after it appeared he was a busted flush.

When he secured victory at the 2019 Masters, it felt like the whole world was watching, and doubtless they are watching now – hoping for another miracle comeback.

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    World number one Nelly Korda carded an opening 67 but Sweden's Madelene Sagstrom holds the lead after the first day of the women's golf event at the Tokyo Olympics.

    In sweltering conditions at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, Sagstrom hit a five-under-par score of 66, even though she was frustrated by her long game.

    The heat was not easy to deal with for the field, with temperatures topping 36 Celsius. 

    Indeed, Lexi Thompson lost her caddie Jack Fulghum due to heatstroke on the back nine of her round.

    "I came into the day having a sore throat... and then dealing with my caddie not being able to finish, it's tough," said Thompson, who carded a 72.

    "I mean, I was so worried about him. I'm from Florida and I'm still not used to that kind of heat.

    "I just hope that he's okay and he gets the hydration he needs and nutrients to go into the next few days. If not I'll figure something else out. I just want him to be healthy."

    Sagstrom, meanwhile, said: "I was striking the ball all right but not great. My short game was my saviour."

    Korda, who won the Women's PGA Championship in June, acknowledged how she had also found the conditions difficult.

    "I think the mental aspect of it is probably the hardest, just because you have to keep yourself hydrated and you kind of lose it a little out there," said the 23-year-old, whose round included six birdies.

    "Like when I was teeing up some balls, I definitely felt a little light-headed, but I kept myself in it."

    India's 18-year-old hope Aditi Ashok is level with Korda on four under.

    Ko Jin-young had to recover from a poor start but rallied with four birdies in the space of five holes on the back nine to tie with Finland's Matilda Castren and Spain's Carlota Ciganda on three under. 

    It was a disappointing day for U.S. Open champion Yuka Saso, however, who carded a three-over par 74, a round which included five bogeys.

  • Elaine Thompson-Herah emulates Usain Bolt with history-making 200m win Elaine Thompson-Herah emulates Usain Bolt with history-making 200m win

    Elaine Thompson-Herah joined some esteemed company by completing a 100 and 200 metres double at the same Olympics on Tuesday.

    The Jamaican sprint star backed up her sensational triumph in the shorter distance, where she posted an Olympic record 10.61 seconds, to win the half-lap race in 21.53s.

    In doing so, Thompson-Herah repeated the double she completed at Rio 2016 and is the first female athlete to defend each sprint title.

    Indeed, only one runner has ever done so and that person happens to be the legendary Usain Bolt, who actually achieved the accolade of winning both races on three straight occasions.

    Here, Stats Perform remembers the superstar duo's memorable moments of glory.

    THOMPSON-HERAH:

    Rio 2016 – 100m

    Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was attempting to become the first woman to win the 100m title at three straight Olympics but injuries had plagued her 2016 season and she could only finish third. Instead, it was Thompson-Herah who won gold for Jamaica in a time of 10.71s. "When I crossed the line and glanced across to see I was clear I didn't quite know how to celebrate. There is a big screen back home in my community in Jamaica. I can't imagine what is happening there right now," she said on that occasion.

    Rio 2016 – 200m 

    Only a few days later, Thompson-Herah became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 to do the double in the women's premier sprint events (Marion Jones had done so in 2000 but later had her medals stripped). Then world champion Dafne Schippers tried to reel in her rival on the home stretch, but there was no stopping Thompson-Herah who crossed the line first in a time of 21.78s. "I know Dafne is a strong finisher, so I knew I had to have a strong finish, as well, just keep my composure and execute straight to the line," she said of the win.

    Tokyo 2020 – 100m

    Injuries had plagued Thompson-Herah in the intervening years but her form was peaking ahead of reaching these Games. And it all came together beautifully on Saturday when Thompson-Herah sprinted an Olympic-record time of 10.61s to lead a Jamaica one-two-three (Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson completed the podium) and defend her 100m title. "I could have gone faster if I wasn't pointing and celebrating early. But that shows there is more in store, so hopefully, one day, I can unleash that time," she said.

    Tokyo 2020 – 200m 

    Just like in 2016, Thompson-Herah backed up one dominant triumph with another. A time of 21.53 made her the second-fastest woman over 200m and also meant she could celebrate a place in the history books. She said: "Honestly I just need to sleep, I have not slept since the 100 metres, honestly my body is in shock mode, but I still had my composure to come out here. It feels good to be in the history book, to set a barrier for the other generation of athletes coming up because we have got a lot of athletes coming from Jamaica, it means a lot to me to set this barrier."

    USAIN BOLT

    Beijing 2008 – 100m 

    The legendary Bolt started his era of domination in Beijing 13 years ago. In the 100m final, he ran a then world-record time of 9.69s despite easing up down the closing metres. "I wasn't bragging. When I thought I had the field covered I was celebrating. I was happy. I didn't know I'd broken it until my victory lap." With his victory, Bolt became the first men's 100m champion from Jamaica.

    Beijing 2008 – 200m

    At that same Games, Bolt became the first sprinter to break the 100 and 200m records at the same Olympics to take out the latter title in an astonishing time of 19.30s. Accused of jogging towards the line in earlier heats, Bolt delivered on a promise to run flat out in a dominant final. "I was worried [I might not break the record] after the semis. But I told everybody I would leave everything on the track and I did just that. I've proved I'm a true champion and that with hard work anything is possible," Bolt said.

    London 2012 – 100m

    Bolt had been beaten by a young pretender in the form of compatriot Yohan Blake in both 100 and 200m races in the 2012 season. But come Games time, it was Bolt who once again reigned supreme – clocking an Olympic record 9.63s (he had beaten his world benchmark from Beijing by this point) to defend the gold. "I tell you people it's all about business for me, and I brought it. When it comes down to business, I know what to do. The crowd were wonderful. I could feel that energy. I feel extremely good and happy," Bolt said.

    London 2012 – 200m

    An ever-relaxed Bolt enjoyed more success when he again came out on top against Blake in the 200m, winning with a time of 19.32s. In doing so, he became the first man to defend the 200m title and first to complete the 100-200m double twice. On the moment of history, he said: "I've got nothing left to prove. I've showed the world I'm the best and, right now, I just want to enjoy myself. This is my moment. I'll never forget this."

    Rio 2016 – 100m

    Bolt was by no means the favourite heading into his third Olympics four years ago, with long-time American rival Justin Gatlin holding the season's best prior to the Games. In the final, Bolt came good by defeating Gatlin by 0.08s. With this victory, Bolt became the first person to win the 100m title three times. In front of a jubilant crowd in Brazil, Bolt said: "It wasn't perfect today, but I got it done and I'm pretty proud of what I've achieved. Nobody else has done it or even attempted it."

    Rio 2016 – 200m

    He would again back up 100m glory in the 200m race, becoming the first man to win the 200m title three times despite having limited runs over the distance in the build-up to the Olympics. He ran a 19.78s to beat Canada's Andre De Grasse. "The fact I came here and executed what I wanted to is a brilliant feeling. I wasn't happy with the time when I crossed the line but I'm excited I got the gold medal - that's the key thing," Bolt said.

  • Tokyo Olympics: Inbee Park healthy, relaxed as she looks for repeat gold Tokyo Olympics: Inbee Park healthy, relaxed as she looks for repeat gold

    Five years ago, Inbee Park was not sure she would even be healthy enough to compete at the Rio Olympics. 

    The LPGA star had battled a thumb injury throughout the year and would end up skipping three of the tour's five majors, but she made representing South Korea a top priority and it paid off. 

    Park nearly went wire-to-wire to win gold, sitting a stroke back of the lead after one round and moving ahead to stay the following day before winning by five strokes over New Zealand's Lydia Ko. 

    Looking back on that experience heading into the Tokyo Games, Park said on Monday she feels much more relaxed. 

    "[In] 2016 I felt the most pressure in my life. I don’t think I could do that once again," Park said. 

    "It’s definitely much better and much more relaxing this year because my conditions are not as bad as in 2016, where I had to deal with injuries and a lot of pressure."

    She knew how many people were counting on her then as golf returned to the Olympic programme for the first time in more than a century, and the opportunity inspired her to push through the pain. 

    “I was representing the country and going through the injury," she said. "It wasn’t like a normal tournament where if you don’t feel well, you just pull out and play well in the next event.

    "I really wanted to play well and didn’t want to withdraw from the tournament because of the injury. I was just trying really hard to fight the injury.

    “With the injury, a lot of people got worried. My family, staff, and probably the whole of Korea was worried that I was not in the best condition.

    "That was kind of the pressure I was dealing with. To overcome that was really hard.

    “I think that kind of pressure gave me the power to overcome a lot of the stuff, and being able to win gold was amazing.”

    Park's quest to repeat begins on Wednesday at 8:41 am local time, when she will open Olympic play in a grouping with Ko and 2016 bronze medallist Feng Shanshan of China. 

    She said she watched last week's men's tournament on television to try and get a feel for the course, then got in some practice Sunday and founded it firmer and longer than she had expected. 

    However it plays later this week, she expects a difficult test but feels she is in a good position to handle it this time around. 

    “I’m very excited to be here representing the country twice in a row," she said.

    "It’s the biggest honour for me. [To be] here in Tokyo five years after Rio, it’s truly a dream come true for me."

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