Tiger Woods won his fifth green jacket at the Masters last weekend, and not only is this a great victory for Tiger, but it is also another strike against the establishment media that mostly thought he’d never win another major.
The media wrote Tiger off years ago. But he was not ready to be ushered off the stage.
At the top of his game in 2015, Tiger Woods won his fourth Masters Tournament. He took two Opens and two PGA Championships in the few years after that but then the troubled years hit hard. Not only did he go from 2008 to this year without a major win, but in some of those years, he barely played at all due to recurring back issues.
Then there were his many personal problems. From marriage troubles to divorce to issues with substance abuse and brushes with the law, Tiger was a hot mess for a while. And throughout he endured multiple back surgeries, as well.
All of this, the media exclaimed, added up to the end of Tiger Woods’ storied career. He would never get over the physical injuries, the drug abuse, or the issues with the law. Tiger was done, the media proclaimed.
Apparently, Tiger had other plans.
Indeed, members of the sports media were proclaiming the end of Tiger’s career almost to the minute he won the 2019 Masters and even though his last year of play was showing marked improvement over his ten-year drought.
Take Fox Sports 1’s Jason Whitlock who declared the end of Woods’ career less than a year ago.
“I think he’s done as an elite golfer. I really don’t expect him, he may win some nondescript tournament, I don’t expect him to win a major championship,” Whitlock said on Speak for Yourself only last June.
— Speak For Yourself (@SFY) June 15, 2018
A few years earlier, During a 2015 episode of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, co-host Tony Kornheiser insisted that if he didn’t make the cut that year, we would “not see him again” and Tiger would disappear from pro golf.
That same year, the hosts of ESPN’s Around the Horn claimed that Tiger had become the “Chicago Cubs of golf” and would never win a big tournament again.
“I was trying to think who does Tiger Woods sound like? It’s always something. ‘This is my time. This is my time.’ He has become the Chicago Cubs of golf,” ESPN reporter Israel Gutierrez exclaimed.
It should be remembered that Gutierrez wasn’t even right about the Cubs because the Chicago Northsiders went on to win the World Series the very next year!
Then there was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who advised Tiger to retire.
“I have to admit it was hard watching him yesterday,” Smith said in June of 2015. “When I saw on the 8th hole he would lose the club all together. Literally, lose the iron and it goes flying behind him in the opposite direction of the ball, and he is looking at his club as he retrieved it as if it was a foreign object. I just looked at him, I turned off the TV. I couldn’t watch anymore.
“I feel like Tiger Woods should retire,” Smith concluded. “I feel like he needs to go away. I’m not saying retire permanently, like, ‘OK, I’m done forever.’ But I think he needs to retire and literally contemplate whether or not he is equipped to play this game anymore.”
That call has not aged well.
Jemele Hill, who was also with ESPN at the time, similarly insisted that Tiger Woods needed to retire.
In fact, the whole “Tiger should retire” narrative was a common refrain during his ten-year drought. Golf NBC’s John Feinstein and Mark Rolfing also recommended that Tiger retire and rest on his laurels.
Then there was ESPN golf analyst Dottie Pepper who jumped on the “retirement” bandwagon. Pepper said that Tiger’s health would never allow him to regain his form and that it was all over.
Fox Sports’ Dieter Kurtenbach was another Tiger career death watch harbinger. As late as 2017, Kurtenbach was seen exclaiming that Woods’ recurring back problems foretold the end of his career. Like his cohorts in sports media, Kurtenbach suggested that it was time for Woods to retire.
Tiger’s career was on the chopping block all across the media. T. Andrews told his audience at Golf Digest that “Tiger Woods is totally, completely, unequivocally, and utterly done.” And Express writer Charles Perrin was sure that “Tiger Woods is finished” and penned a piece explaining “why he will NOT win another Major in his career.”
Even other golfers were crowing about the end of Wood’s run as a big name in golf. In 2017, Hall of Fame golfer Colin Montgomerie, for instance, smugly said that he “would not trade his career for Tiger’s.” I’ll bet Montgomerie wouldn’t mind trading for that green jacket today!
They all missed the mark.
Yes, despite the doomsaying, Tiger had other plans.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.