Tiger Woods hysteria resumes this week at the PGA Championship, in the wake of his widely proclaimed “greatest comeback in sports history” last month at the Masters.
I am going to say this one time and one time only, and I am going to be very, very, very, very, very clear about it:
It was not the greatest comeback in sports history.
Alas, it is only the second-greatest comeback in golf history, maybe the fifth-greatest comeback in sports history and probably not among the 25,000 greatest comebacks in human history.
Let’s start with golf comebacks.
Tiger Woods: Marital and back problems. Goes 11 years between major titles.
Ben Hogan: In 1949, near-fatal car accident — fractured pelvis, chipped rib, broken collarbone, fractured ankle, blood clots, hospitalized 59 days; might never walk again. Won U.S. Open in 1950.
Let’s move on to a handful of other sports comebacks.
Muhammad Ali: At his career peak, the heavyweight champ was banned from boxing from 1967 to 1970 after refusing military service. Regained heavyweight title twice after his return, including in 1974, at age 32, knocking out George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
Greg LeMond: The 1986 Tour de France champion, in a hunting accident in 1987, was shot with 100 lead gun pellets in his back and right side, airlifted to a hospital, lost 65 percent of his blood volume and was told he was within 20 minutes of bleeding to death. Returned to cycling and won the Tour de France again in 1989 and ’90.
Monica Seles: Ranked No. 1 in the world, she was stabbed in the back with a nine-inch blade by a 38-year-old spectator while playing a 1993 tennis tournament in Germany. Did not play for two years, resumed in 1995, then won her 10th and final Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 1996.
George Foreman: Lost his title to Ali in 1974, quit boxing in 1977, became an ordained minister, returned in 1987, becoming oldest heavyweight champ ever in 1994 at age 45 defeating Michael Moorer and launched a line of George Foreman Grills that can be found in garage sales from Peoria to Poughkeepsie.
(Going back to Tiger for a moment — in all fairness — he had four back surgeries and lost his Gatorade endorsement deal.)
Let’s finish up this week’s work — it’s amazing they still pay me for this — by running down some great, unlikely comebacks elsewhere in life.
Richard Nixon: Lost to JFK in 1960, lost California gubernatorial race in 1962 and retired from politics. Unretired to win the presidency in 1968 and ’72. P.S. If he had subsequently bounced back from Watergate, you could retire the greatest comeback award in his name.
Robert Downey Jr.: From a 1992 Academy Award nomination to unemployable addict — drug abuse, multiple rehabs and some jail time between 1996 and 2001 — to fronting huge movie franchises including “Iron Man” and “Sherlock Holmes.”
Ulysses S. Grant: Entered the Army, quit the Army; drank excessively, fell into depression and struggled as civilian. Rejoined the Army during the Civil War, promoted to top general of Union forces, kicked Confederacy’s butt and elected twice as president. On $50 bill.
John Travolta: Vinnie Barbarino, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” then nothing for a decade, then “Pulp Fiction” got him A-listed to the head of the Spago reservations line.
Japan and Germany: Both written off after World War II; you wouldn’t believe what Skip Bayless said about them.
Old Spice: They went from smelling like your grandfather to “smell like a man, man.” Presto! Sources tell me Vladimir Putin and Justin Bieber both douse themselves in it.
Betty White: The woman is 97 years old and still gets work — somewhere in there at sometime, she had to somehow make a comeback from something.
Mayonnaise: Every time you think it’s out, it gets pulled back into the condiment game.
Lazarus: Uh, he was dead. And then he wasn’t.
Q. Forgetting what day it was, I had to rummage through the trash to get your column in yesterday’s paper. Sadly, I found it, read it and returned it to the garbage. What does this compulsion say about me? (Don Sodo; Dumfries, Va.)
A. Sadly, you should’ve left last week’s column in the trash, unread.
Q. Magic Johnson and Luke Walton exit, Frank Vogel and Jason Kidd enter. Can you explain the Lakers in 25 words or less? (Steve Weiss; Manchester, N.H.)
A. You could give me 2,500 words and I still don’t like my chances.
Q. Regarding last week’s answer concerning James Holzhauer, since when did you get the authority to move the vibrant metropolis of Barstow to Nevada? (Richard Huff; Rockville, Md.)
A. This is why I am not “Jeopardy!” material: I have driven through Barstow maybe 200 times and could not remember it is in California.
Q. Is it true that President Trump quit reading the Mueller report because he thought the redactions were scratch-offs and he wasn’t getting winners? (Jim Meehan; Ashton, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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