If a herd of sports GOATS ever took to the field, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods would certainly be leading the pack.
The two dominated their respective sports and faced similar trajectories. Jordan went through a comeback story of his own, first from a stint in minor league baseball then a three-year retirement. Woods put the final ganache on his years-long comeback story Sunday at the Masters when he won his 15th major and first in 11 years.
David Aldridge of The Athletic asked Jordan what he thought of Woods’ monumental day at Augusta National and the mental fortitude it took.
“To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen,” Jordan said.
Jordan: Woods played mentally tough
Jordan said Woods succeeded because he played to his strength in being mentally tougher than the field, which had more physical gifts than the legendary golfer possesses at 43 years old.
“You have so many things you can draw upon, and the other guys don’t have the same. They don’t have the experience. You think about [Francesco] Molinari hitting it in the water on 12, [Tony] Finau hitting in the water, Brooks [Koepka] hitting in the water on 12. Mentally, [Woods] had to sustain it. From then on it was him trying to figure it out.”
Molinari’s shot into the water on No. 12, as rain began to fall and he slipped into a tie atop the leaderboard, gave Woods the slim opening he needed. He played it safe — “all your fundamentals are in play,” Jordan said — and battled it out over the final holes.
“It’s absolutely tough mentally. And then you think about the physical. I’m elated,” Jordan said.
Jordan didn’t see possibility of comeback
Jordan said he never thought Woods would come back due to the injuries he has suffered, mainly severe back problems. They left Woods with difficulty cooking and playing with his children. Swinging a golf club left him in excruciating pain.
“You can’t answer to what your body has to deal with,” Jordan told The Athletic.
Woods reportedly asked Jordan how one knows it’s time to walk away, per an April 2016 feature by ESPN’s Wright Thompson on the star golfer, but the basketball star couldn’t bring himself to tell him what he really thought.
"The thing is," Jordan told ESPN, "I love him so much that I can't tell him, 'You're not gonna be great again.'"
Jordan said he thought Woods still dwelled on his past mistakes and was caught up in the grief of losing his father, something Jordan also experienced. Woods, he said, was trying to do what his father liked or wanted to “soothe his father’s interests.”
[Jordan] somehow got through his grief and reclaimed his greatness, while Tiger has tried and failed over and over again.
What will Woods do next?
The Masters victory shook the sports world. The photo of Woods enveloping his son in a bear hug on the 18th green, just as he and his father did for his first Masters win in 1997, resonated throughout every corner of the country.
Woods is ranked sixth in the PGA Tour standings and fans have their sights set on Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.
Woods was tight-lipped on his schedule, but typically takes a few weeks off after the Masters. Based on his history, Golf Week projects he’ll return for the Wells Fargo Championship beginning May 2 then the PGA Championship two weeks later.
Whenever his next tournament comes, Jordan has an idea of what the world is about to see: more wins now that Woods is “over the hump.”
“They [Woods’ tour opponents] got problems. His confidence is only going to build from here. The unknown is the biggest thing. You don’t know what Tiger’s capable of doing. He’s won a tour event [the Tour Championship last September], he’s won the Masters, he’s won a major.”
Don’t say a fellow GOAT didn’t warned you.
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