We take a look at some great sporting comebacks and see where Tiger’s Masters win fits.
Is Tiger’s Win The Greatest Comeback In Sports History?
Tiger Woods won his 15th Major championship this weekend at the Masters. Arguably the greatest golfer of all time, Tiger held off a stellar field to win by one stroke and collect his fifth Green Jacket completing a remarkable comeback from a series of issues regarding his personal life and health.
A lot has been written about Woods and his struggles regarding pretty much every aspect of his life. From the extra-marital affairs, to prescription drug dependency, to a series of health problems, Woods had countless issues both on and off the course, to the point where they all hindered his ability to play.
In the last couple of years it has been his body and his health that has been the biggest concern. After a series of different injuries over the years it was his back that was proving to be the main problem. A lot of the time he couldn’t move, couldn’t walk and most definitely couldn’t swing a club. At that point, Woods was thinking about his life after golf and being a father to his children rather than contemplating playing golf again.
He would go through four back surgeries and his career was thought to be over.
However, as he travelled down the road to recovery, Woods began to entertain the thought of competing again. He returned to action at the 2017 Hero World Challenge where he put together four solid rounds, and yet despite this showing nobody really expected him to compete at the highest level again.
How wrong we all were. Tiger in 2018 shocked the world with that famous victory at the Tour Championship but again, many still questioned his ability to get it done in a Major championship. Tiger had been in contention at The Open Championship and US PGA but failed to get over the line both times. It appeared as if number 15 was a step too far.
Fast forward to this week and Woods again proved everyone wrong. His performance over the week and eventual victory is unquestionably an incredible story, but where does it sit amongst the greatest sporting comebacks ever? We take a look at some other instances that deserve discussion in the debate.
In February 1949 Hogan suffered a near fatal car accident that lead doctors to question whether he would ever walk again. He suffered a double fracture of the pelvis, fractures in his ankle and collar-bone, damage to his ribs and also nearly died because of blood clots in hospital. Just 59 days later he left the hospital with his golf career in tatters.
But in November of the same year he resumed his golf and was back on the PGA Tour for the 1950 season. In his first tournament back he got into a play-off in the Los Angeles Open but lost the 18-holer to Sam Snead.
Then in 1953 Hogan won five of the six tournaments he played in, including three Majors.
American Seles had won eight Major tennis titles and was one of the finest players of her generation. But at a tournament in Hamburg during the 1993 season, a court-invader stabbed her in the back and despite only taking a few weeks to heal, Seles didn’t return to tennis until 1996.
That year she would win the Australian Open and get to the Final of the US Open where she lost to arch-rival Steffi Graf.
After Ali refused to join the US Army for the Vietnam War, he was exiled out of the sport for nearly four years. Upon his return he would lose to Joe Frazier but then retained his world heavyweight title against George Foreman in 1974.
Before the 1991/1992 NBA season Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV, which back then was deemed to pretty much be a death sentence. Little was known about the disease so basketball was the last thing on his mind at the time. He retired immediately.
However the fans voted him as a starter for the NBA All-Star game which he played, won the MVP (Most Valuable Player), and then went on to have a starring role in the gold medal winning 1992 USA Olympic basketball squad known as the ‘Dream Team’.
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The Austrian racer was cruising towards the 1976 F1 world championship title but a crash at the Nurburgring in Germany left him trapped in the cockpit whilst flames engulfed him. He suffered severe burns and his career looked over.
Shockingly he was behind the wheel 43 days later and would go on to win two more World Championship titles in 1977 and 1984. It could have been three too had he not deliberately stopped because of hideous conditions at Suzuka in 1976 which all but gifted James Hunt the title by a single point.
Like Tiger, Manning battled with injuries towards the tail-end of his career especially in his neck. Additionally he was still deemed to be an underachiever in the game thanks to his sole Super bowl victory in 2007 with the Indianapolis Colts.
But Manning persevered and worked his way back from the career-threatening neck surgeries, found a new home in Denver and went on to win the Super bowl in 2016 a couple of years after getting dominated by the Seattle Seahawks. Nobody in the National Football League was expecting his return to the top of the sport, which is why Manning makes it into our list.
1968 European Cup Final
A decade after Manchester United’s shocking Munich Air crash, in which they lost eight players, the Red Devils become the first English club to win the European Cup thanks to a 4-1 victory over Benfica.
Perhaps one of the lesser known individuals on this list, Steele pulled off one of the most unexpected sporting comebacks cricket has ever seen. On the brink of retirement and floundering at county level Steele was a surprise call up for the 1975 Ashes series.
Famously dubbed ‘the bank clerk who went to war’ Steele played sublime cricket to ward off the ferocity of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson, to the extent that he inspired the England team to victory in the series.
Notable Mentions – Anthony Crolla (boxing), Kell Brook (boxing), Tyson Fury (boxing), James Conner (American Football), Shaquem Griffin (American Football), Josh Hamilton (baseball), Yuvraj Singh (cricket), Jonny Wilkinson (Rugby Union)
Where do you think Tiger’s comeback stands?
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