Woods looked like Tiger of old in 80th PGA Tour win
Few athletes in history have dominated a sport like Tiger Woods, but the latest victory of his illustrious career should not be considered anything other than extraordinary.
More than five years on from his 79th PGA Tour triumph, Woods recorded win number 80 on Sunday, courtesy of a stunning performance at the season-ending Tour Championship.
Over four increasingly thrilling days in Atlanta, he looked like the Tiger of old, the peerless competitor who ruthlessly accumulated 14 major titles between 1997 and 2008, transcending his sport as he became one of the most recognisable and admired figures on the planet.
Yet for all that past success, his victory at East Lake was truly remarkable, given the misery Woods has endured in recent years.
As the rejuvenated 42-year-old strode down the 18th fairway in the final round, surrounded by a sea of adoring spectators, it was easy to forget golf's biggest star had openly admitted just 12 months earlier that he was unsure whether he would ever play competitively again.
A succession of back surgeries had failed to restore Woods to full fitness and previous comebacks had followed a painful theme, with the long-time world number one looking a shadow of his former self before another enforced hiatus.
In May 2017, Woods seemed to have reached his lowest ebb. He was arrested in Florida on suspicion of driving under the influence - his lethargic condition caused by prescription medication as he struggled to deal with intense pain - and a deeply unflattering mugshot of the American made headlines around the world.
Put simply, Woods looked a broken man and the prospects of him contending at the highest level once again appeared slim, to say the least.
It bears repeating, this was only 16 months ago.
By the end of 2017, Woods felt able to return and could finally claim to be pain-free for the first time in a long time after successful back fusion surgery, but expectations remained low.
However, it soon became clear things were different in this comeback. He twice threatened to win as early as March and went on to consistently record top-10 finishes, his game gradually getting sharper and sharper.
In July, Woods led the Open Championship at Carnoustie with nine holes to play but could not quite finish the job as playing partner Francesco Molinari prevailed.
An even more encouraging showing came at the year's final major, Tiger finishing second at the US PGA Championship and saving his best form, ominously, for Sunday.
Initially named as a vice-captain for this week's Ryder Cup, Woods instead made the team as a player - his performances demanding a wildcard pick from captain Jim Furyk. Had Woods played a full 2017-18 campaign, he would surely have qualified automatically with ease.
Yet the best was still to come.
Because he’s been one of the most recognizable humans in the world since the late 90’s, his amazing win rate in the 2000’s, the dramatic fall in 2016, and now a chance of winning in his 40’s against today’s best, makes today the most exciting day golf has had in a long time.— Trevor Immelman (@TrevorImmelman) September 23, 2018
In the context of his injury nightmare, reaching the Tour Championship - via a top-30 placing in the FedEx Cup standings - was a hugely impressive achievement.
Woods still had more to offer, though, and duly blew away a star-studded field to complete the most glorious comeback.
This writer had always believed Tiger's outrageous victory at the 2008 U.S. Open - essentially completed on one leg - would forever remain his greatest triumph.
Yet Sunday's drought-breaking success was even more astonishing due to everything he has gone through.
One thing is certain. Having returned to the winner's circle, Woods will be determined to ensure it is no one-off.
The most obvious goal will be to equal and surpass Sam Snead's record haul of 82 PGA Tour titles - a tally he is now only two short of.
Even more tantalising is the thought of Woods registering a first major triumph since that miraculous U.S. Open win a decade ago, which took him within four of Jack Nicklaus' long-standing benchmark.
In years gone by, Tiger often appeared capable of anything on a golf course.
Once again, it is now tough to put limits on what he may yet achieve in the years to come.