Tiger Woods, Golf’s Dominant Force, Hoists a Trophy Once Again
Roughly a month after his fourth operation, a spinal fusion, Woods was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence near his Florida home. The toxicology reports found five drugs in his system, including two powerful painkillers and sleep-inducing medication. Woods sought inpatient addiction treatment after that episode.
But when Woods talks about the turning point, he speaks of the fusion surgery, which gave him back an active life and his career. He returned to golf in December ranked No. 1,199 in the world, and rose to No. 21 by the start of the Tour Championship, which had a 30-man field that included 18 of the top 20 golfers.
Woods entered Sunday’s round with a three-stroke lead over his nearest challengers, Justin Rose, the world No. 1, and Rory McIlroy, a former No. 1, and with a 23-0 record when entering a final round leading by at least three strokes.
It is a measure of how dominant Woods was before the back operations that despite all the time he missed, he has now moved into a tie with Dustin Johnson for the most PGA Tour victories (19) among active players since the start of 2008.
The Tour Championship, the PGA Tour’s season finale, was Woods’s 18th official start in 2018, one more than he had made in the four previous years combined as he tried to relieve his debilitating pain.
“None of us will really know how deep and dark a rut he was in because he is such a private guy,” said Trevor Immelman, who in 2008 held off Woods to win the Masters.
On Sunday night, Woods alluded to how deep and dark it was. He remembered thinking: “Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in?”