“Please, Tiger. Enough. No more. Walk away whilst you still can.”
What idiot wrote that?
On September 29, 2017 – almost exactly a year ago – I sat down behind my laptop and thrashed out a piece entitled: “The time is right for Tiger to call it a day”.
I implored the former world No.1 to do “the one thing you’ve programmed yourself never to do – quit”.
I called it “the right thing to do, the sensible thing to do and, quite frankly, the only thing left to do”.
So, let me just say this categorically and for the record: I was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
What can I say? I gave up on him.
I contended that, in the context of the PGA Tour, Woods had “gone from being the man to being an old man”.
I noted that his body had become brittle – “battered by a lifetime of swinging clubs, lifting weights and a succession of injuries” – whilst his aura had “gone, long ago”.
I posited that it would be better for Tiger to walk away from the game whilst he was still physically able and before he did further damage to his reputation.
The drought is over. Eighty is the new seventy-nine. And it's just... Just...
To be honest, it’s hard to describe.
It's hard find words to do justice to what Tiger has achieved in the last ten months. It’s symptomatic of modern life that there are few superlatives that haven’t been rendered obsolete by frequent, wanton misuse.
Labels? Labels are just as bad. People are rushing to file Tiger’s Tour Championship victory as “The Greatest Comeback Ever”. Whoa there. Read up on the injuries sustained by Ben Hogan in that awful car crash in 1949, look at what he went on to achieve after it, and get back to me.
Still, though. That, tonight, in Atlanta. That was special. Really, truly special.
It was 15 short months ago that Woods was arrested – dishevelled, disorientated and disgraced – for driving under the influence. A toxicology report detailed the alarming cocktail of painkillers and sleep tablets that had been sloshing around his system when officers picked him up.
That’s to say nothing of the mugshot.
They say pictures are worth a thousand words but Tiger’s widely-shared police photo evoked only one: how?
How had it come to this?
How had somebody on a seemingly unstoppable trajectory towards greatness fallen so far, so fast, so hard?
How could he hope to recover from this, the latest in a string of embarrassing personal episodes?
How quickly things can change.
Just over a year later and the hows have become wows.
Woods’ comeback has been viewed through a spectrum of perspectives since it launched in late November last year.
Cynicism. Scepticism. Fatalism.
Those were three of the first.
Then: surprise and intrigue.
Thereafter: cautious optimism, unfiltered optimism, admiration, fervour, giddiness.
Now? Incredulity. Slack-jawed, rub-the-eyes incredulity.
After all he has faced – from a sordid sex scandal to the welding together of his body – for Tiger Woods to have returned to professional golf and be competitive is nothing short of extraordinary.
For him to have been in contention for major championships, equally so.
But to win? In a field comprising the very best players in the game? When one year ago he could barely chip without doubling-over in pain?
It’s borderline miraculous. Not my word. His. On multiple occasions this year, Tiger has described himself as “a walking miracle”.
I’ve never really believed in such things. Miraculous and impossible are too alike for my liking.
But it was Nelson Mandela, I believe, who once said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Ten months ago, the prospect of Tiger Woods playing – never mind winning – on the PGA Tour again seemed impossible.
He’s since done both and I was wrong.
Please, Tiger. More.