Tiger Woods said his two children finally saw the positive side of golf when he won a tournament on Sept. 23, after earlier experiencing the sport through the prism of their father’s gruelling recovery from back surgery.
“I think they understood, a little bit more at the Open Championship this year, when they saw me take the lead. They felt that rush and that buzz in the gallery, and the people talking and the excitement,” Woods told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on Sunday, Sept. 23, following his first win in five years.
The golf legend’s children with ex-wife Elin Nordegren—son Charlie Axel, nine and a half, and daughter Sam Alexis, 11—basked in the glory of Woods’s victory at the East Lake tournament.
“They’d never seen that or experienced that or felt it,” the 42-year-old athlete told ESPN. “I think they’re able to remember this day and this moment, and especially the process.”
After two back surgeries six weeks apart, he couldn’t lie down, sit, or walk without pain. Golf was the least of his concerns, so much so that he once said anything else he achieved would be “gravy.”
Woods said his children found the heart-wrenching pain of his recovery hard to watch.
“For a long time, they equated golf to, ‘Dad’s hurting more.’ So [they’d say], ‘Dad, don’t try and play, don’t try and practice, ’cause you’ll be in more pain,’” said the champion golfer. “Now they’re starting to see the joy that I get from it, and I think they’re starting to really enjoy it because of [that] as well,” Woods added.
The official Twitter account of the PGA Tour tweeted “Back in the winner’s circle. Lots of love for @TigerWoods.”
Back in the winner's circle. ?
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 23, 2018
One year ago, while recovering from a fourth back surgery, he still had no idea if he could come back to the highest level of golf.
“Just to be able to compete and play again this year, that’s a hell of a comeback,” he said.
Woods delivered a memorable ending to his inspiring return from back surgeries with a performance out of the past. He pulled away from the competition building an early five-shot lead, then hanging on for a two-shot victory over Billy Horschel.
It was the 80th victory of his PGA Tour, two short of the career record held by Sam Snead. His prior win dated back to the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational.
“The 80 mark is a big number,” Woods said. “It’s a pretty damned good feeling.”
He finished at 11-under 269 and won $1.62 million, along with a $3 million bonus for finishing second in the FedEx Cup.
The only disappointment—a minor one under the circumstances—was realizing as he came down the 18th that Justin Rose had made birdie to finish in a three-way tie for fourth, which gave Rose the top spot in the FedEx Cup and a $10 million bonus.
Without that birdie, Woods would have won his third FedEx Cup title after starting at No. 20 going into the Tour Championship.
“Congrats, Rosie,” Woods told him. “World No. 1, hell of a season.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.