Tiger Woods yesterday said that his latest injury comeback to win the Zozo Championship and tie the PGA Tour’s win record had ended the “most challenging” phase of his career.
Woods held off Hideki Matsuyama at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club to equal Sam Snead’s record of 82 wins and move to No. 6 in the world rankings.
It was his first tournament since arthroscopic knee surgery in August and came after he started the tournament with three straight bogeys.
Four back surgeries, countless knee operations, marital strife and run-ins with the law meant Woods had not won a major since 2008 and no tournaments since 2013 when he teed up at the Players Championship at East Lake, Atlanta, just over a year ago.
Not only did he win the Tour Championship for his first victory in five years, Woods went on to secure a 15th major title in Augusta, Georgia, earlier this year.
Now he stands unsurpassed as the most successful PGA Tour golfer of all time.
“Well, it’s satisfying to dig my way out of it and figure out a way,” said Woods, who finished three shots clear on 19-under. “As far as playing, I didn’t really know that I would come back and play at this level, but I’ve come back with different games over the years, moving patterns, and this one’s been obviously the most challenging.”
“Then having another procedure a couple months ago, and again coming back and winning an event, not easy to do, but I trust my hands and today was no different,” he said.
Woods recalled as a five-year-old in 1981 getting to play with Snead.
“I played with Sam at, I think, it was Calabasas Country Club,” Woods said. “He was doing an outing there, and I had come out to play the 17th and 18th holes with him. I remember hitting the ball into a little creek, and playing it out of the water and making bogey. I bogeyed the last and he went par, par. It was the only time I ever got a chance to play with Sam Snead — I was two down through two.”
While Snead registered his 82nd win at the age of 52, Woods is nine years younger.
“As far as playing until 52, I hope that’s the case,” Woods said. “If you would have asked me a few years ago, I would have given you a different answer, but certainly the future looks brighter than it has.”
That includes returning to Japan for the Olympics next year.
“I hope to qualify for the team and represent my country,” he said. “I know some of my friends have made Olympic teams before in the past and they said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”