It’s been 365 days since Tiger Woods almost lost his life on the side of a road near Los Angeles after driving over a median, through two lanes of oncoming traffic, and hit a tree. It had been just over a month since HBO’s Tiger, a two-part documentary on the golfer’s life and struggles with addiction, had aired, reminding the public of both his enormous impact on the sport as well as his many missteps along the way, including his 2017 DUI arrest, as well as his infidelity and the subsequent shame that came with it.
One year ago, after Woods was pulled out of the wreck, police reported that there were no signs of intoxication. In fact, the brakes had never been hit throughout the incident, the steering wheel left untouched. He was transported to a hospital, where his legs were touch-and-go over the following weeks — he later revealed that the injuries were so severe that doctors had considered amputating his right leg.
Whether Woods would ever walk again was a valid question, let alone play golf, but come December, Woods and his son Charlie, now 13, were playing side-by-side in PNC’s family tournament, where they finished second. He was able to use a golf cart to get around, which he wouldn’t be able to do in professional tournaments, but just seeing him back out there has the world foaming at the mouth for an answer as to when he’ll be back.
There were so many times he almost wasn’t back, and the accident really looked like it was the nail in the coffin of the career of the greatest golfer of all time. But the same things that drove him to seek greatness now won’t let him throw in the towel — even if it may be what’s best for his health.
The interesting thing, though, is that he has seemed so much better off mentally — every interview he gives has a positive spin. How grateful he is to be alive, how lucky he is to have kept his leg, how great it is to spend time with his kids. He has a smile plastered on his face seemingly constantly — a stark contrast from some years, where he appeared exhausted and haggard during television appearances and public outings — and he’s always at work to get better and regain his strength despite his still-ongoing recovery.
This past year, Tiger’s mere presence at some tournament or another has often made bigger headlines than the play of the tournament itself, whether or not he actually participated. In spite of his polarizing ups and downs throughout the past two decades, it has become clearer than ever during the beginning of 2022 just how much the game of golf relies upon Woods.
After Phil Mickelson’s awful quote about playing with the Saudis as a chance to stick it to the PGA, human rights abuses be damned, he announced he’d be taking a break from the sport. Whether or not the Super Golf League will actually successfully take off remains to be seen, but the enormous backlash from Phil’s comments, combined with Tiger stating that he would be back on the PGA Tour alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Duston Johnson, it’s looking like the SGL may be a failed experiment that was tanked by Mickelson’s public hubris. One wonders whether Mickelson will be shown the same sort of eternal forgiveness granted to Tiger from the golf community and the wider public.
While Woods and his 15 majors, second all-time to Jack Nicklaus, may not be quite ready to get back on the PGA courses, he’s back in the spotlight as golf’s shining star, the only question on everyone’s minds being when he will be healthy enough to return. No one really cares all that much about when Phil is coming back from his self-imposed break, despite his status as one of the greatest golfers currently living.