Topgolfgears Morning 9: 80: Tiger’s win in context | Equipment changes key | Brandel’s take

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1. Tiger triumphant
Perhaps you’ve heard: Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship yesterday to end a five-year victory drought.
As you’d expect (especially with the victory nearly a foregone conclusion after the third round), the scribes filled plenty of pages on the subject. Here are a few dishes from a packed buffet.
ESPN’s “How Tiger Woods overcame pain, scandal and age to triumph again”…”We never thought we would see the artist return to the peak of his powers, and for good reason: Tiger never thought he would see the artist return to the peak of his powers, either,” he writes.
  • “He played golf in Atlanta like he played it in his dynastic prime. The better news? Woods nailed down No. 80 as a different human being, as a kinder and gentler update on the programmed assassin he used to be. Tiger has mellowed some with age, offering the head nods and eye contact he rarely bothered with during his scorched-earth prime. Back in the day, the legend Tiger has spent his life chasing Jack Nicklaus, altering his act, too, after growing tired of playing the villain while his neighborly rival, Palmer, basked in the gallery’s love.”
  • “Woods? He didn’t change because the fans had fallen hard for someone else. He changed because parenthood always changes young dads and moms, and because his staggering physical and personal breakdowns inspired him to reassess his tee-to-green purpose. Many of Tiger’s wounds were self inflicted, and a fan is entitled to feel about the man the way he or she sees fit. But no matter how you judge his character, Woods is indisputably one of the finest athletes this country has ever produced. And what he has pulled off in the early stages of recovery from what he called “some really dark, dark times” ranks among the greatest sports comebacks ever.
USA Today’s …”But this day belonged to Woods and his legion of fans who have been hoping it would come for some time. Even Woods was among those who didn’t know if this day would come, his body punished enough to require four surgeries to his left knee and four surgeries to his back.”
  • “At times he couldn’t walk, was forced to crawl and had pain constantly shooting up his back and down his leg….His way of life was a daily struggle. But 17 months removed from fusion surgery to his spine, and 16 months after he hit rock bottom and the world saw the alarming mug shot following his arrest for suspicion of DUI, Woods was a picture of health and joy after PGA Tour victory No. 80 and his first since 2013, or in 1,876 days.”
On the more granular level, .
2. Among the greatest comebacks in sports
Our Andrew Tursky offers his take on the significance of Tiger Woods’ return to the winner’s circle.
  • Here’s a bit of his perspective…”No athlete has been written off more than Tiger Woods, especially in the era of social media that gives every critic in the world a microphone. No athlete has reached a higher high, and a relatively lower low than Tiger Woods. He went through it all – a broken marriage, public shaming, legal issues, a deteriorated skill set, surgeries, injuries, and arguably most impactful of all, humanization.”
  • “Tiger Woods came back from not just a 28-3 deficit on the scoreboard (Patriots-Falcons reference), and he didn’t score eight points in 9 seconds (Reggie Miller reference, sorry Knicks fans and sorry Dad), and he didn’t get hit by a bus (Ben Hogan), but he got hit hard by the bus of life, and he now stands tall in the winner’s circle.”
  • “Maybe that’s why sports teaches us so much about life; because sports is life. Not in the way that nothing else matters except sports, but in the way that sports is played by imperfect humans. When the ball goes in the air, or onto to the tee, or the starting bell rings, nothing is certain and nothing is given. And when things are looking bad, like really really bad, it’s how you respond that truly matters. Isn’t that what life is?”

3. Equipment decisions key for Tiger

Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson filed an interesting reflection on Woods dialing in his equipment in the course of his comeback.
“This continued into the season as Woods used the M3, originally putting the two movable weights in the center and back heel position (neutral flight with slide draw bias) before moving them both to the center track with one weight forward and the other somewhat back. The weights forward sacrifice some forgiveness, but add speed and make the club much more workable-a desirable trait for a player who shapes his shots like Woods. He also changed shafts at the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, putting in a Mitsubishi Diamana D + white 70-gram shaft-an updated version of the Mitsubishi shaft he used with much success.”
“Woods also added new irons to his bag, TaylorMade’s TW Phase 1. The irons are almost an exact replica of the muscleback blade irons Woods has used virtually throughout his career. Woods tried prototypes of the irons at the test session, but felt the ball flight was too high-a non-starter for one of the game’s best iron players. “If I look up and don’t see the ball right there-I mean, right where I expect it to be-then we have a serious, serious problem,” Woods told Golf Digest several years ago about his ball flight with irons. Eventually TaylorMade matched up the center of gravity location to what Woods had been using and also brought in former Nike employee Mike Taylor, who worked on Woods’ irons and wedges when he used equipment with a swoosh, to make sure the irons were just so.”
4. What Brandel said
Frequently a Woods critic, more recently a True Believer, here’s what Brandel Chamblee had to say on air.
  • “I couldn’t believe what I was watching…I felt like I was watching a great piece of fiction. This is the greatest comeback in the history of golf
  • “Dan [Hicks, on NBC] was just alluding to this was the most improbable comeback in the history of sports, for a lot of different reasons. We know his injuries. He came back from emotional and psychological toil the likes of which nobody has ever been hit with in the game of golf
  •  “He was working on a different swing. He had no teacher for the first time. And then he had the chipping yips. Nobody has ever been able to overcome those, but Tiger certainly did.
  • “But beyond that, as I was watching him play the game and then I finally realized he’s capable of hitting all the shots, watching him through the year and through this day and just now in that interview, he gives the impression of something much, much deeper.”
5. Feinstein’s take
John Feinstein offered his take on where Woods’ comeback sits in the pantheon of sports…”The greatest comeback in golf history was Ben Hogan’s return from a near-fatal car accident in February 1949 to win the U.S. Open 16 months later and five more major championships after that. Woods’ comeback is more complex because a good deal of it was self-inflicted. But to come back from seven surgeries, including back-fusion surgery that was a last ditch attempt to get him back on the golf course, to play this well, is extraordinary.”
  • “One need not compare it to Hogan. Apples and oranges. Different circumstances; different time; different world. Both are worthy of great respect, perhaps even awe. Tom Watson almost won the Open Championship six weeks shy of turning 60-26 years after his last major victory. That surely should garner some attention.”
  • Feinstein went on to reference Jimmy Connors, Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali, and George Foreman.
6. Bigger than Tiger
USA Today’s Dan Wolken on the scope of Woods’ comeback.
  • “What has made the Woods phenomenon so fascinating during his 2018 comeback is that it only seemed to be partly about him. Woods always has attracted big galleries and drawn huge television ratings any time he played, but the desire to see him win again also has been about us.”
  • “If you are old enough to remember the early 2000s, the way Woods pounded field after field of elite players into submission became so familiar that we took for granted how quickly it would end. As soon as Woods stuffed his approach to 10 feet on the first hole, burying the birdie to take a four-shot lead over playing partner Rory McIlroy, everyone on the course knew it was over.”
  • “That Woods could give both his fans and critics that feeling again after so long, and show a glimpse of what it was like to those who weren’t around to see it, has to rank as one of the greatest achievements of his career.”
7. Remembering the abyss
Q. If you go back to the first surgery that caused you to miss the Masters back in ’14, what would you consider to be the low point, and what would you consider to be the high point up until today?
  • TIGER WOODS: Probably the low point was not knowing if I’d ever be able to live pain-free again. Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in. I just didn’t want to live that way. This is how the rest of my life is going to be? It’s going to be a tough rest of my life. And so — I was beyond playing. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t lay down without feeling the pain in my back and my leg. That was a pretty low point for a very long time.
In a similar vein, (yes, he was quoted earlier) ESPN’s Ian O’Connor wrote this
  • “As it turned out, Tiger’s body was more fragile than his focus. One back injury after another left him bedridden at times, and at others unable to perform the basic physical functions of your average middle-aged dad. “I couldn’t even go out for dinner,” Woods said. “I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t get from Point A to B in the house.”
  • “Woods couldn’t chip because of the pain he felt running down his leg when he bent over, causing his hands to shake. The cortisone shots and the epidurals didn’t give him relief. He couldn’t play pickup golf with his friends, and he couldn’t even play backyard ball with his kids.”
  • “Coming back and playing golf was never in my thoughts,” Woods would tell ESPN in March. “It was just, ‘How do I get away from this pain? How can I live life again?’ That was driving my life. I felt like I couldn’t participate in my own life.”
  • “Woods said the pain and sleeplessness caused him to over-medicate himself and led to his late-night DUI arrest near his Jupiter, Florida, home on Memorial Day in 2017, when he was found asleep at the wheel of his damaged car with the engine running. The mortifying roadside video of Woods’ interaction with police suggested the golfer was literally and figuratively lost, and maybe for keeps.”
8. Other golf stuff!
Denny McCarthy won the Tour Championship…Justin Rose won the FedEx Cup…Dustin Johnson is the world No. 1 again…Tom Lewis birdied 24 of his final 54 holes to win the Portugal Masters.
  • With the season wrapped, .
9. What a scene
It remains to be determined whether it was the product of some coordinated official effort to create an old-school scene or if it was the golf equivalent of fans storming the court, but the image of Tiger Woods being swallowed by the massive gallery as he walked the fairway of the final hole was surreal.

One of the many images, below.

GolfWRX Morning 9: 80: Tiger’s win in context | Equipment changes key | Brandel’s take

GolfWRX Morning 9: 80: Tiger’s win in context | Equipment changes key | Brandel’s take

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