Very few sports outstage the NBA playoffs when action is in full tilt, but this weekend’s broadcast of The Masters Tournament did, with a healthy Tiger Woods completing an epic comeback by earning his fifth green jacket — his first major win in 11 years.
It takes a GOAT to know another, they say — so it isn’t much of a surprise that Michael Jordan, known as the greatest in a sports he left 16 years ago, was closely watching his friend Woods defeat the odds and complete a comeback story which he deems even more impressive than his own.
“I took two years off to play baseball, but nothing like that,” Michael Jordan told David Aldridge of The Athletic. “I’m pretty sure he questioned himself, whether he could get it back, and he had to put a lot of work in. But he took it head-on. He had to change his game; he had to change his perspective a little bit. To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”
Matter of fact, Jordan himself doubted Woods, and didn’t have the heart to face his friend and tell him what was in the minds of most who had watched him struggle through a torn ACL and multiple back procedures, often taking one step forward only to take two more backward.
It was only three years ago that Jordan told ESPN The Magazine’s Wright Thompson: “The thing is, I love him so much that I can’t tell him, ‘You’re not gonna be great again.’”
Oh boy, was he wrong.
And it’s not often that a guy so great at his sport, and a ruthless golfer on his own right, makes such a bold statement on a talent the sport of golf has seen nothing like through the modern era.
“I never thought he’d get back physically,” said Michael Jordan. “He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.”
It was that way that Eldrick Tont Woods, known to the world of golf by only one name — Tiger — dissolved every doubter and naysayer; Jordan included, to his own delight.
Much like Jordan after his return to the NBA, Tiger returned a changed man, a wiser one; a man that learned not only of the limits his now battle-tested body could offer him, but also the wisdom of an older golfer, one more focused on the task at hand than testing the limits of his talent.
When the likes of Francesco Molinari, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka hit into the water on the 12-hole, Woods hit into the middle of the green instead of the flag, forced to keep his poise and play his cards wisely. Every par a tactical decision to make.
Jordan, who watched the event in a watch party with Luke Donald, the former No. 1-ranked golfer, who finished third in the 2005 Masters, couldn’t help but admire the road traveled for Tiger to get to this point.
“There were so many people that were doubting him,” said Michael Jordan. “You can think about the physical. But he overcame a lot of mental things, too. Not just the physical aspects, but all the scandals, too. I was watching TV and they were congratulating him, but the first thing they bring up is the negative aspect. That’s what he had to deal with. Granted, we all make mistakes. But for him to come back and be able to win again, it’s far tougher than anything I think anybody’s had to deal with.”