It helps to enjoy golf, of course. But, in spite of the sport?s traducers, lots of people of all kinds do just that. Even those who don?t, though, could surely scarce forbear to cheer on Sunday as Tiger Woods sank his final putt at Augusta to win his first ?major? ? golf has four of them a year ? for 11 years. Woods bestrode his sport from 1997 to 2008, setting new standards of consistency and excellence. Since then, it sometimes seemed that Woods? life, his game, his body ? he has had repeated surgery on his back ? and his reputation had fallen apart irreparably. Yet on Sunday, he won once again, beating an awesomely talented field to win his 15th major with enormous style and to haul himself within sight of Jack Nicklaus?s record of 18.
The boxing aphorism that ?they never come back? still holds true in many sports ? and often in politics and entertainment, too. It is true in golf as well. Once a player loses it, it rarely returns. Yet, when the swing off the tee loses its rhythm, or the yips make putting purgatorial, good golfers at least have longer to find their way back than good runners, footballers or tennis players do. Few in these sports keep going much beyond their early 30s. Nicklaus won his final major ? also at Augusta ? when he was 46. His professional career at the very top lasted more than 25 years. Woods, at 43, still has some winning years in him.