Rick McDaniel: Tiger Woods’ major comeback – this is how he did it

Tiger Woods is a major champion again. Not since the U.S. Open in 2008 had Tiger won one of the four major golf tournaments. He had a drought of 11 long years. But all that ended on Sunday when he won the Masters.

This is certainly one of the greatest comeback stories of all time.

Who could have predicted it? Well, actually I did right here in a Fox News Op-Ed last September. It wasn’t a lucky guess. I’ve written two books on comebacks and two articles about Tiger’s comebacks. This is actually Tiger’s second comeback.


His first comeback followed setbacks including marital infidelity leading to divorce, three years without winning a PGA tournament, multiple injuries and major knee surgery. His comeback came six years ago when he won five tournaments and was the PGA Player of the Year. But he didn’t win a major.

Now he has won his 15th major, trailing only Jack Nicklaus -- who won 18. He won the Masters for the fifth time trailing only Jack, who won it six times. And he won it 5,117 days from his last victory at Augusta, the longest stretch between wins in Masters history!

This comeback started last September when he won the season-ending Tour Championship. It was his first win since the 2013 WGC Bridgestone tournament five years ago. And now he has won 81 PGA tour events second only to the 82 won by Sam Snead. He is one win away from tying the all-time record for PGA Tour wins.

But this comeback has gone to another level because of the Masters win. Many pundits said he would never win again and were proven wrong in September. There were many more who said he would never win another major again. And now they have been proven wrong, too.

How did he do it?

How can you make a comeback from multiple setbacks; four back surgeries including a spinal fusion surgery, a DUI arrest, and subsequent rehab? There were days when Woods could not even sit or stand comfortably. Woods did not know if he could ever play golf again let alone win a tournament and certainly not a major.

He exited survival mode

In any setback there is a time where you check out, lick your wounds and try to get your bearings. But you can’t stay there. Tiger got hooked on pain pills dealing with his back injury. He spent countless hours playing video games because he couldn’t do anything else.

The danger with survival mode is you may think you need to stay there longer but it will kill your comeback. You can get comfortable having a pity party where you dwell on how you’ve been wronged, how things aren’t fair or stuff hasn’t gone your way.

Tiger knew he had to act. Even after four back surgeries, he was still in pain. So, after the Masters Champions dinner two years ago he flew to England. The result was spinal fusion surgery and it worked. It took six months to heal but it was the exit out of survival mode and into his comeback.

He found his motivation

Tiger has never lacked for motivation. But setback after setback can discourage even the greatest among us. Two years ago, he privately told some people he was done playing golf. His hope was he could simply play with his kids, not play professional golf. Let alone win another major.

But 18 months ago, he began to swing a golf club again. And little by little he got better. He had spent a few years watching a group of young players take over the sport. They referred to him respectfully but not fearfully. Only 3 percent of golfers Tiger’s age (43) have ever won a major. He wanted to prove them all wrong – and he did.

Maybe his greatest motivation was his children. They had never seen him win a major. He wanted them to experience what it was like when their dad won. They had not watched their dad hoist a major trophy or heard the roar of the crowd cheering his name. Now they have.

He restored his confidence

Your confidence always takes a big hit when you have a setback. Confidence is the expectation that you will succeed and it is the power that propels your comeback. Confidence is what helps you take advantage of opportunities. And comebacks always come with new opportunities.

Tiger’s comeback really began last summer at The British Open, where Woods took the lead at a major for the first time in years. Then at the PGA Championship, he shot a final-round 64, his lowest final round ever at a major.


And then in September, he won his first tournament in five years. He was a PGA Tour champion again. This year his game was rounding into form. You could see the confidence building and he entered the Masters believing he could win.

The comeback is not complete. Woods will break Snead’s all-time record for wins. And he will win more majors, maybe even another one this year. He will because he is doing what you must do to have a comeback. In golf or in life.