Tiger Woods defies the odds again due to his mental toughness

AUGUSTA, Ga. — You can like Tiger Woods, love him, dislike him or even hate him.

But, purely as a golfer, he deserves your respect.

Woods the person has always been complicated. At times, he has displayed arrogance and a coldness that have portrayed him as unapproachable, unidentifiable, and difficult to hug. Of course, from his personal life there was the scandal of marital infidelity that alienated so many people.

But Woods, the golfer, has been many things since he was introduced to the world 25 years ago this week with his record-breaking, sport-altering 1997 Masters victory, the first of five green jackets he has won, and each of those things have been admirable.

Woods’ divine talent, of course, is otherworldly. You know the record of 82 PGA Tour wins and 15 major championship wins, behind only Jack Nicklaus’ 18. All of that is written in the record books.

He also knows about all the multiple back and knee surgeries Woods has come back from in his career, and most recently his remarkable return to competitive golf after the horrific car accident he was in outside of Los Angeles less than 14 months ago. it left his right leg so mangled that Woods said doctors considered amputation. All of them are well documented.

What isn’t written in the log books or hospital records is Woods’ inner strength, his mental toughness.

I never thought there was even a remote chance that Woods would play in this Masters, mainly because walking around the undulating emerald turf of Augusta National is so difficult.

Tiger Woods lines up a putt.
Tiger Woods lines up a putt.
REUTERS

I always believed that Woods’ best first chance to play a golf tournament again would be the British Open at St. Andrews, where the ground is as flat as a basketball court and where he has won twice.

Yet here he is this week, defying the odds.

After your revealer 1 under 71 in the first roundWoods spent the first five holes of the second round on Friday playing on the wrong side of the cut line with four bogeys.

He had gone from 1-under and a legitimate contender to 3-over with four bogeys in his first five holes.

It didn’t look good. Then we saw what might be Woods’ greatest trait on the golf course: his unyielding will to grind.

Stunned by the poor start, Woods showed an iron chin and rallied to return to 1-over, not only making the cut but at least giving himself a chance for a puncher to chase him down. Scottie Schefflerleaderwho follows nine strokes, in the next 36 holes.

“Hey, I made the cut,” Woods said. “I have a chance to get into the weekend. Hopefully I’ll have one of those light bulb moments and turn it on for the weekend and be done. You’ve seen guys do it with a chance to get into the back nine. If you’re in the top five or six of the last nine, anything can happen. I need to get there. That is the key. I need to get there.

Tiger Woods tees off at the 12th hole.
Tiger Woods tees off at the 12th hole.
EPA

“[Saturday] it will be a great day. I need to go out there and run my business and get into the red and have a chance to get into the back nine.”

For all his incredible physical gifts, Woods’ mind has always been his most underrated and underrated weapon on the golf course. He never gives up. That’s why I’ve always believed that the biggest, most impressive, most unbreakable record of his is the streak of 142 consecutive cuts that he made between 1998 and 2003.

That kind of grinding defines Woods better than anything. And that kind of grinding was on display front and center around Augusta on Friday.

Tiger Woods greets fans.
Tiger Woods greets fans.
EPA

Woods stumbled, even fell, but kept getting up, refusing to let the dream die.

“I felt good about how I defended myself,” Woods said. “He could have easily kicked me out of the tournament, but I stuck with it. I got back into the ball game. It was a good fight.”

Woods hasn’t lost many fights on golf courses.

“He’s the best competitor I’ve ever seen,” said US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson.

To put Woods’ remarkable week into perspective, consider the big names not playing this weekend as Woods continues his relentless search for another jacket: Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth all missed the cut.

“I’m amazed he was able to come back and play at the Masters, but if there’s one person I’ve ever met who would say he could, it would be him,” said Stewart Cink.

“I could give you 25 accolades that he has and there’s more,” said Will Zalatoris. “Obviously, he’s won here five times. She is 15 older. He has won 82 times. He is the greatest of all time. It could be argued that this is probably his best achievement.”

I don’t think there is any argument there.

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