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Pat Stoetzer: Tiger Woods’ golf career is likely finished, but don’t bet against him | COMMENTARY

Serious golf fans know the comeback story of Ben Hogan because of its amazing threads.

Hogan was traveling through Texas with his wife Valerie in their Cadillac on Feb. 2, 1949, when they were struck head-on by a Greyhound bus. Hogan sustained near-fatal injuries, and some doctors doubted whether he’d ever walk again.

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Instead, the Texan recovered and went on to win six of his nine career majors after the accident. Hogan finished with four U.S. Open titles and two Masters championships. Only three players have more majors than Hogan (he’s tied with Gary Player) ― Walter Hagan with 11, Tiger Woods with 15, and Jack Nicklaus with 18.

So let’s compare Hogan to Woods, particularly in the wake of last week’s horrible circumstances that nearly left us with two sports icons dead in southern California in the span of a year. After being relieved that Woods’ car accident didn’t result in death, and we didn’t have to link him with Kobe Bryant, my mind wandered.

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How long before he gets back on the golf course? Could he come all the way back to win another tournament? Maybe he wins one more major?

Very premature, I know. But this is Tiger Woods we’re talking about. I didn’t think I’d see him win a major again, until he did it in 2019 at the Masters.

If Ben Hogan can come back and win ― multiple times ― after being hit by a bus, what’s to say Tiger can’t come back and win after suffering serious leg injuries from his Feb. 23 car accident?

Tiger Woods hits on the 4th hole during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 26, 2020.
Tiger Woods hits on the 4th hole during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 26, 2020. (K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune/K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune)

We should understand the healing process is never the same for everyone. Setbacks can take place. Perhaps side effects linger, or body parts don’t work like they did before.

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I could have said the same thing about Tiger’s multiple back surgeries, knee surgeries, or his broken leg from 2008. You know, the one on which he won a U.S. Open.

Hope for his ability to recover and live a healthy, normal life for the rest of his days. But don’t count him out of playing golf again, or winning, either.

I think I did once. Silly me.

That’s what made the 2019 Masters a sporting event I’ll never forget. Woods hung around the top of the leaderboard. The field chased Francesco Molinari, who looked like he was in command. Then the back nine happened, as it usually does on Sunday at the Masters.

And there was Tiger, decked in red, making crucial shots and draining putts while his closest competitors wilted, just enough, for Woods to be standing on the 18th tee needing a bogey or better to win his fifth green jacket.

I couldn’t type the text messages to my dad fast enough as the final holes played out.

Me: Are you guys watching this?

Dad: We are!

Me: Tiger is going to win this. I can’t believe it.

Dad: I can’t either. Amazing.

I stood up and got close to the TV when Woods stood over his bogey tap-in putt, wanting to take it all in. The comeback was complete, and he thrust his arms in the air while the gallery around the green put up a loud roar.

He didn’t have to do another thing in pro golf, as far as I was concerned at that moment. After all of his physical and psychological twists and turns, Tiger Woods made it all the way back.

I admit I was a little emotional that day, April 14, 2019. And if Tiger gets back on a course again, I’ll feel it once again.

And I won’t be betting against him.

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