The Tiger Who Came to Tee Off: Extraordinary Tiger Woods can’t be written off on stunning Masters comeback

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After months of uncertainty, Tiger Woods will take part in The Masters at Augusta.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we’ll begin.

This is the tale of the Tiger Who Came to Tee Off. Quite how it will end is anybody’s guess, but like his storybook namesake, a certain Mr Woods’ mere presence in Augusta this week has gobbled and consumed every scrap, crumb, and morsel of attention in the buildup to The Masters.

No narrative is as compelling as that of the improbable comeback - whether it be the snatching of something glorious from the proverbial frothing jaws of defeat, or the wily old veteran defying the bone-grinding ravages of time itself to saddle up for one last hopeful rodeo.

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In both respects, Tiger Woods’ decision to bid for a sixth Green Jacket in Georgia, after weeks of lurching back and forth on the matter, makes for an arresting prospect.

Just 14 months ago, the 46-year-old’s career was left dangling, white-knuckled and precarious, above the yawning abyss of enforced retirement. A devastating car accident, in which the golfer was found to have been travelling at nearly twice the legal speed limit, left him in need of several surgeries to fix a severely damaged right leg. Those in the know rated his chances of recovery as “extremely difficult”.

And yet, in spite of looming odds and the dour opinions of pesky naysayers, Woods is indeed back.

Speaking ahead of The Masters getting underway on Thursday, he said: “I feel like I can still do it. I still have the hands to do it, the body is moving good enough. I have been in worse situations and won tournaments.

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“I feel like if I can still compete at the highest level I am going to, but if I feel like I can’t, you won’t see me out here.

“My back surgeries and the stuff I had to play through, even going back to the US Open when my leg was a little bit busted, those are all times that I can draw upon where I was successful, how I’ve learned to block things out and focus on what I need to focus on.

“The fact that I was able to get myself here at this point was a success and now that I am playing, everything is focused on getting in that position on the back nine on Sunday with a chance like I did a few years ago.”

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Woods has, of course, come back from the brink before. This isn’t his first act of medical escapology, nor for that matter, was last February’s incident his first career-threatening traffic collision. Thirteen years ago, it was a fender bender between an SUV and a fire hydrant that opened up a Pandora’s box of infidelity allegations, subsequent confessions, sponsorship withdrawals, and ultimately, divorce.

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In the period since, golf’s former poster boy has been plagued by debilitating back injuries, so much so that he has had to undergo a quintet of surgeries just to prolong a career that seemingly has nine lives. Whether that falls under the umbrella of nominative determinism is a point of subjectivity.

But all of the struggles and strife - both personal and physical - have afforded Woods the role of matinee idol in some of golfing folklore’s most remarkable recent moments.

After five years in the doldrums, who could, for instance, forget his 2018 Tour Championship triumph?

The images of Woods striding down the fairway on the 18th - flanked by frantic security and scrabbling cameramen, trailing in his wake a mob of exultant spectators like some returning prophet, a messianic Pied Piper of putters and 5-irons - are still enough to evoke goosebumps.

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Six months later, he would finally win his fifth Green Jacket, and a historic 15th major title, at Augusta.

All of which leads us to an obvious musing - can he do it again?

The desire for Woods to execute the unimaginable is certainly there. At times his behaviour has veered between the inadvisable and the downright inexcusable, but for all of his troubles, the American remains the most popular and iconic export his sport has ever produced. You have to look no further than the groundswell of casual interest in this year’s Masters to see that is still the case.

Ordinarily, his inclusion at Augusta might be dismissed as a fanciful curio, a fairytale pipe dream of gossamer sturdiness.

But Woods is not ordinary.

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He is a Tiger who has burned so incandescently bright for so long that he would make William Blake do a double take. He is a man so ubiquitous in his fame that a quick Google search of his first name brings him up before the animal from which he lent it - putting him in the esteemed company of Pitbull and Seal, in case you were wondering.

He is the face who has launched a thousand ludicrously-addictive video games, who has inspired hordes of clueless kids the world over to endanger their neighbours’ greenhouse windows, and who has done more for red polo shirts and grey slacks than Elizabeth I did for ginger wigs and life-threatening lead-based makeup.

He is a blockbuster attraction in a sport whose most notable dalliance otherwise with the dazzling glitz of Hollywood has been Happy Gilmore, and when the stars align and he flirts with rekindling the spark that made him such a transcendental force in his halcyon days, he can still be unstoppable.

Tiger Woods is coming to tee off, and whatever the next chapter in his fabled yarn entails, you can’t write him off just yet.

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