Tiger Woods plays a practice round for the U.S. Open on Monday in Pebble Beach, California. In the early 2000s Woods was one of the most-celebrated athletes in the world. But his career took a sharp detour about 10 years ago. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Even if you don’t like golf, you may want to watch the United States Open starting Thursday. The world-famous golf tournament may be the next chapter in the most incredible comeback in the history of sports: the story of Tiger Woods.

Woods was a great golfer for years. How great? Let’s take a look.

Woods won his first major tournament in 1997 when he was only 21 years old. The “major” tournaments are the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA. These are the biggest tournaments and the hardest ones to win because all of the best players play.

Woods kept winning golf tournaments and major championships for many years. By 2008, he had won 14 major titles — only the legendary Jack Nicklaus had won more (18).


Woods celebrates after winning the U.S. Open in 2008. That title was the 14th “major” of Woods’s career. Only Jack Nicklaus had more, with 18. Soon after he began to have person problems and health problems. He played very few golf tournaments between 2014 and 2017. After four back surgeries, Woods has been able to return to the game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Woods was one of the richest, most-famous athletes in the world. It appeared that his life was perfect.

But then things began to fall apart for Woods. His family and friends discovered that he had been lying to them. Those lies led to his marriage ending. Woods also had injuries and surgeries that made it difficult to play golf.

His injuries were so bad he hardly played any professional golf from 2014 to 2017. And when he did play, he wasn’t very good. It looked as though his career was over.

In April 2017, Woods had a fourth back surgery. He hoped the surgery would help him live “a normal life” and let him play with his kids (Woods has a daughter who’s 11 and a son who’s 10).

The surgery worked. Not only did it allow him to play with his kids, but it also allowed him to play golf without pain.

Slowly Woods began to regain some of the amazing skills that had made him a fabulous golfer. In September 2018 he won a professional PGA tournament, his 80th (only “Slammin’ Sammy” Snead has won more with 82).

Then in April, Woods did something almost no one thought possible. The 43-year-old won another major tournament — the Masters — his 15th major win.


Woods’s fans cheer him on in a practice round at this year’s U.S. Open. After a surprising win in this year’s Masters, Woods is looking for his 16th “major” title. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Woods was a sports hero again. Not because he was on top of the sports world, but because he had been on the bottom. Hurt, defeated and embarrassed. Still, he persisted and came back. Woods even seemed happier and nicer than when he was Number 1.

Sometimes it’s hard for anyone, especially kids, to identify with a world-class athlete such as Woods. Who can imagine the feeling of being the best in the world at anything?

But everyone knows the feeling of losing then having to come back and try again. It’s not easy for pros or for kids. It takes courage.

The courage of a Tiger.