Tiger Woods proved his doubters wrong.
Woods, less than a year after his first start since he had his fourth back surgery, held off the field and won the Tour Championship on Sunday at East Lake for his 80th career PGA Tour victory. Woods, who opened the day with a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, fired a one-over 71 in the final round and beat Billy Horschel by two.
In December, when Woods made his first start at the Hero World Challenge (an unofficial event his foundation runs), most observers were just hoping to see him play four healthy rounds. Few expected him to get to the point where he was competing (much less winning) tournaments again, yet here we are.
Woods, to his credit, has overcome injuries, swing changes and off-the-course embarrassments to get back into the winner’s circle. Whether or not he continues to add to his win total, he’s officially put his doubters — like the ones below — in their place.
Our Alan Shipnuck, in a column from the British Open at St. Andrews, where Woods missed the cut during a dismal 2015 season. “Among the seven players Woods beat last week were Sir Nick Faldo, 58, playing his final Open at the Old Course, and Tom Watson, 65, who said goodbye to his favorite tournament after 38 years. Hard to believe that Woods has joined their ranks as nothing more than a ceremonial golfer.”
Shane Ryan, in Golf Digest, also after the British Open.
Woody Paige said Woods isn’t “ever going to win another tournament.”
Michael Jordan, the GOAT, says Woods, also the GOAT of his sport, is “not gonna be great again.”
In The Washington Post, Neil Greenberg wrote a column titled “Why Tiger Woods may never win another tournament.
Greg Norman says Woods won’t return to his previous form.
In our anonymous players poll, 28% of those surveyed said Woods will never win again. Fast forward to the same poll this year, conducted in the last two months, and 98% said he would win again. What’s more is that 90% said he would win another major.
Shipnuck, in a GOLF.com column, said “Tiger Woods’s long, slow decline has been painful (for him) and tedious (for us). His fourth back surgery, announced on Thursday, has added a sense of finality: It’s over. He’s done.
GOLF.com staffers, in our weekly Tour Confidential roundtable, after Woods announced his fourth back surgery. Jeff Ritter: “I do think we’ll see him in PGA Tour fields from time to time, starting in 2018, but his days as a threat to win are over.” Josh Sens: “Never say he’ll never play again. But also don’t look for him to win.” Shipnuck: “I’m afraid this is the end of the road. Yes, we need to celebrate the glorious golf Tiger played, but it’s also OK to feel a little cheated. Tiger is the most dominant golfer of all-time, and also the biggest what-if.”
Shipnuck, after Woods’s DUI arrest. “It’s devastating. Tiger as a competitor had already been profoundly changed by the shame of his sex scandal, because his self-image had been shattered. This only compounds it. Tiger had recently been learning to engage with the world around him, or so it seemed. I’m afraid that now he’ll slam the shutters down and retreat back into his shell.”
Kevin Van Valkenburg, ESPN senior writer, made a plea for Woods to never play golf again in the wake of his DUI arrest, but instead coach. “Wanting him to return [as a player] at this point is wanting to see him suffer in real time. I’m not sure I want to be a party to that torture any longer.” Van Valkenburg wrote.
Brandel Chamblee, in an interview with GOLF.com, said Woods’s balky back would prevent him from ever being competitive again.
Josh Sens, GOLF.com contributing writer, responding to Chamblee’s comments in our Tour Confidential roundtable. “And if you do an internet search on guys who came back from the yips and waning confidence, the list of success is even shorter. The mental side of the game, the loss of the so-called ‘edge,’ is as much of a hurdle for Tiger as the injuries. Yes. His competitive drive and confidence were incomparable in his prime. But that swaggering Tiger is no more, and I don’t see him coming back.”
Butch Harmon, Woods’s longtime swing coach, said he never thought Woods would play again.
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said Tiger Woods needed his mojo back and couldn’t get it.