A fifth Masters title for Tiger Woods, 22 years after his first and 14 years after his last, and a 15th major triumph, following an 11-year hiatus, raises the question: What next?
At 43, Woods has a new lease of life after spinal fusion surgery helped rescue a career also affected by personal troubles including a sex scandal, the break-up of his marriage and a reckless driving case.
Sunday’s victory was one of perseverance through adversity and means he is one short of the six Masters titles won by Jack Nicklaus and three shy of the all-time record of 18 majors won by the Golden Bear.
Nicklaus was 46 when he won the last of his Masters in 1986. There was a six-year gap between that and his previous major win at the PGA Championship in 1980.
Woods has gone five years longer between major titles, and only Nicklaus is older as a Masters champions.
But Woods could go on playing longer. He may have shed some of the sheer driving power of younger years but he can still hit the ball nearly 300 yards from the tee – his average driving distance of 297.5 yards after the opening three rounds was longer than many.
He takes care of his body. Providing his back holds up and he does not have to deal with other injuries, Woods can still win majors.
That much is now clear.
The Nicklaus record is not on his radar. For now.
“I’m sure that I’ll probably think of it going down the road. Maybe, maybe not. But right now, it’s a little soon, and I’m just enjoying 15,” he said.
Woods is choosing his tournaments carefully to conserve fitness, and has trimmed his schedule after feeling he did too much too soon last year.
Players can extend their careers with the right nutrition and training. And Woods, always the perfect physical specimen, was a groundbreaker in working on his physique when he emerged on the scene.
The younger players now on the tour are getting bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic. They are recovering better. They are hitting the ball prodigious distances.
“A little bit of that’s probably attributed to what I did,” Woods said.
When Woods first turned professional he often found himself in the gym with only Vijay Singh for company.
Now everybody trains – “and they, even Phil’s working out,” he quipped in reference to veteran Phil Mickelson.
Woods winning majors can only be good for the business and marketing of golf and to inspire once again others to take up the game.
It does no harm either for the bank balance of the player himself who earned 2.07mn dollars for his one-shot victory and, according to Forbes business magazine, has cumulative career earnings of 1.5 billion dollars.
And as sporting comebacks go, it’s up there with the best.
“Americans love to see their brightest stars fall, and few have fallen from a higher point than Woods, who was the most marketable athlete on the planet for a decade-plus,” Forbes wrote.
“But the one thing Americans seem to love even more is the redemption story.”
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