Tiger Woods became golf’s biggest ever star before public scandal and injuries forced him to launch incredible comeback
The sporting world was shocked on Tuesday as news emerged of Tiger Woods being involved in a serious car crash.
Woods was rushed into surgery with multiple leg injuries after fire crews used the ‘jaws of life’ to get him from a rolled-over vehicle.
It is not yet known how serious the American’s injuries are – and it is too soon to speculate whether his remarkable career will resume.
But one thing is for sure, it is the latest event in what has undoubtedly been the most dramatic individual sporting tale of our generation and perhaps all time.
From unparalleled dominance and brilliance on the course to public scandal and crippling injuries, the 45-year-old has spent as much time on the front pages as the back.
Taught to become unbeatable by his father Earl, an adolescent Woods was better than most of the seasoned professionals on the PGA Tour in the nineties and he quickly burst on the scene to prove it.
At 21 years old, he became the youngest ever winner at the Masters in 1997. And at 18-under-par with a 12-stroke lead, he was officially the best golfer Augusta had ever seen.
Woods raced to 14 major championships by 2008, doing the famous ‘Tiger Slam’ in the process, winning all four of them in a row between 2000 and 2001.
But perhaps the best statistic to capture his dominance was the fact he was the top-ranked golfer in the world from August 1999 to September 2004 (264 weeks), and then again from June 2005 to October 2010 (281 weeks).
It changes almost every week nowadays.
Woods climbed to unprecedented heights, which just made his fall in 2009 even greater.
On November 27, Woods was involved in the first famous car crash of his career after he collided with a fire hydrant, a tree, and several hedges near his home after an argument with then-wife Elin Nordegren.
A ticket for careless driving was the least of his issues as intense media speculation eventually revealed the cause of the dispute was multiple infidelities.
It was the biggest story of the year and weeks of coverage ended up with Woods giving a televised apology the following year, while taking a hiatus from golf.
A dip in form understandably followed when Woods eventually returned, but by 2013, he had returned to dominance, and as the American got back to the top of the world rankings, Nike released the famous ‘winning takes care of everything’ tagline.
However, while Woods was rebuilding his personal life, his body was falling apart – and 2013 would be followed by four back surgeries and five years without a PGA Tour title.
Those years were littered with poor rounds and unfinished tournaments as many began to consider Woods’ glittering career all-but over.
Spinal fusion surgery in 2017 was designed to give him a decent quality of life and stop the constant pain, as the golfer had already told friends he’d given up hope of playing at the top level again.
Pictures of him being arrested in 2017 for dangerous driving after consuming a cocktail of painkillers signalled what many considered to be a sad end to Woods as a sporting hero.
But in a miraculous turn of events, Woods did regain his previous brilliance despite being in his forties with a spinally-fused back.
An incredible win at the Tour Championship in 2018 sparked unbelievable scenes on the 18th fairway – and then he capped it off by winning the 2019 Masters, his 15th major, 22 years on from that famous first victory and 11 years after his last one.
Woods equalled Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories in 2020 – and there was renewed hope he could chase down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.
His last appearance on the course before Tuesday’s accident came at the PNC Championship in December 2020 alongside his son Charlie, who blew the sporting world away with his ability despite being aged 12 – sound familiar?
Another back surgery after that event meant Woods was already in a race to make the 2021 Masters.
We are yet to discover how bad this really is, but we can only pray it’s not the final page of Woods’ incredible golfing story.