There are a very few people that can fully understand what it’s like to be at the pinnacle of a sport and be considered one of the, if not the, greatest of all-time.
So when Tiger Woods, once expected to smash every record for winning in golf, finally broke through with his first major win in 11 years at the Masters, there were plenty that had thoughts, but few that could offer them from the point of view of an athlete that was, at least once, at Tiger’s level. Some of those, like Tom Brady, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Serena Williams, did with brief public messages of congratulations and awe on social media, but few have expounded on their tweet-length thoughts.
Luckily, David Aldridge of The Athletic was able to get Michael Jordan, who knows Woods and golf quite well, on the phone to get his unique perspective on Tiger’s accomplishment in longer form, and Jordan’s thoughts on Woods’ comeback were fascinating. For one, he called it the “greatest comeback I’ve ever seen,” echoing the sentiments shared by Stephen Curry on Twitter in the immediate aftermath.
Jordan highlighted the mental toughness it takes to get through that situation and over the proverbial hump after that long outside the winner’s circle. He called it “unbelievable” that Woods was able to reach the pinnacle of golf again when no one believed he could, either mentally or physically, and noted that the Tour now has serious problems on their hands because Woods now knows what he can do.
“Dealing with his emotions, obviously he believed in himself,” Jordan said. “But until you put that into action, sometimes it’s a struggle. I think he’s gotten over the hump. I think he’s going to win more. It’s tough mentally. It’s absolutely tough mentally. And then you think about the physical. I’m elated.
“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.”
All of Jordan’s comments offer a unique perspective on why Woods’ comeback is so improbable and impressive. There’s the physical aspect of returning from serious injuries and back problems, but also the mental side of gaining that edge he once had. One of the most impressive things about Woods making it back to this point, and something Jordan makes note of, is that he had to change his game and approach from his peak.
That’s incredibly difficult to do as a great athlete, but it’s perhaps why Woods is perfectly suited for such a comeback. He always tinkered with his swing, even at his peak, so there isn’t just one way he’s played. Even at his best, there were different iterations of Tiger and this is the latest and, maybe, most impressive version.