By Gary Cummings

With a five-under-par 67 in the third round at Augusta National, Tiger Woods positioned himself for his first major victory since 2008, on the same Augusta National stage where he stole the show in 1997 with a record-breaking 12-stroke victory in his first major as a professional.

Woods will enter the final round tied for second with Tony Finau, two strokes behind Francesco Molinari, who posted a 66 for a 54-hole total of 13-under 203.

In 1997, the 21-year-old Woods was a three-time United States Amateur champion who requested a winner’s green jacket that hung loosely on him because he expected to grow into it over the course of his career. Now 43, with 14 major titles and four back operations behind him, Woods is poised to do what no one — least of all, him — thought possible two years ago: continue to expand his legacy. With a victory, he would pull to three major titles behind Jack Nicklaus’s record 18.

Before the 2017 Masters, Woods flew in for the Champions Dinner and spent the evening in terrible physical discomfort. So great was the pain in Woods’s lower back, he told one of his fellow diners: “I’m done. I won’t play golf again.”

On the eve of this year’s tournament, Woods touched on that tough time in a speech after he accepted the Ben Hogan Award, presented to a player who has remained active in the game despite a physical handicap or serious injury or illness. He said he required a pain-relieving shot just to make it through the dinner two years ago, and traveled from Augusta National straight to the airport, for a flight to England to consult with a back specialist, who recommended back fusion surgery.

Woods traveled to Texas that month for the operation, which he described it as “a last resort” after three less complex operations. His goal at the time, he said, was not to resume his winning ways in golf but to regain a quality of life that allowed him to play with his two children and engage in daily activities with minimal physical distress.

Before Woods returned last year for his first competitive start at Augusta National since 2015, he described himself as “a walking miracle.” Woods tied for 32nd last year, a performance that he used as a launching pad to contend at the British Open, where he tied for sixth, and the PGA Championship, where he finished second. Last September, Woods won his first PGA Tour title since 2013, and his 80th over all, at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, a two-hour drive from Augusta National.

About admin

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply