Tiger Woods says he’s “blessed” to be back after winning his first PGA Tour event in over five years following a long and painful return to form from a back injury.
“It’s been unbelievable, to get to this level again, I didn’t know if that would happen again and lo and behold, here we are,” he told CNN’s Patrick Snell after securing the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club.
Woods finished 11-under par for the weekend, two strokes clear of his nearest challenger Billy Horschel to take his 80th PGA victory.
The 14-time major winner signaled that he had turned a corner after years of pain and disappointment.
“We’re through an unknown and that was the hardest part, it was an unknown — I didn’t know if I’d be able to do this again or to what level or what degree and here we are with 80 wins.”
Woods said 80 was “a pretty cool number,” and that one that places him just two behind all-time PGA leader Sam Snead and ahead of legends Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.
“It was just a grind out there,” the former world No. 1 told NBC moments after his final putt. “I loved every bit of it, the fight and the grind and the tough conditions. Loved every bit of it.”
Thousands of fans followed the 42-year-old down the 18th fairway, chanting “USA, USA” as Woods sealed his first win in 1,876 days.
At Augusta in April Woods described himself as a “walking miracle” and says he now realizes just how lucky he is.
“I’m just blessed, I’m just lucky. I am lucky, it worked out for me. My back was in a pretty bad spot there,” Woods told CNN. He said as part of his recovery process he had to work around his back injury. “To figure out a golf swing and a game built on a fixed point in my back, it’s been kinda interesting,” he said.
“It hasn’t been easy but I’ve been very lucky to have a great team around me and they’ve worked so hard to give me a chance, and also the support I’ve had from them means all the world to me.”
In closing in on the all-time record, he told a post-tournament press conference that he was happy to give his kids some precious memories in the process.
“I think they understand what Dad does now. I hadn’t won any tournaments that they can remember so I think this will be a little bit different for them.
“A lot of times they equated golf to pain because every time I did (play) I’d hurt and it’d cause me more pain and now they’re seeing a little bit of joy and seeing how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again,” Woods said.
‘Proud of you right now’
Amid the excitement, it was easy to forget that current world No. 1, Justin Rose, had birdied the 18th hole to finish tied for fourth place and secure the FedEx Cup — which serves as the finale to the PGA Tour season — as well as a check for $10 million.
“Sorry to rain on the parade, guys!” he joked.
“I would like to take this moment to congratulate Tiger. I think the world of golf is really proud of you right now.”
Woods’ displays so far in 2018 suggested he was finally over the injury problems that had plagued him in recent years.
He briefly led July’s British Open at Carnoustie before finishing sixth and ended as runner-up behind Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship in August.
Woods’ stunning return to form has also seen him return to the Ryder Cup as a player for the first time since 2012.
US captain Jim Furyk has selected him as a wildcard for the biennial match against Europe’s top golfers, which starts Friday at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Paris.