Michael Jordan on Tiger Woods: Greatest comeback I've ever seen

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images (2007)

Michael Jordan on Tiger Woods: Greatest comeback I've ever seen

Golf

Michael Jordan on Tiger Woods: Greatest comeback I've ever seen

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Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have enjoyed a long and close friendship.

They have much in common, not the least of which is that one can make a legitimate sound argument that each man is the most-talented, if not “greatest,” person ever to participate in their given sport.

So when Jordan drops superlatives about Woods, they carry a bit more gravitas. And like Woods, Jordan knows a little bit about comebacks.

And Jordan readily admits that what Woods accomplished with his one-shot Masters’ victory in the wake of all those back surgeries, professional setbacks and two crushing bouts of personal humiliation, was unprecedented.

“I took two years off to play baseball, but nothing like that,” Jordan told The Athletic’s David Aldridge. “I’m pretty sure he questioned himself, whether he could get it back, and he had to put a lot of work in. But he took it head-on. He had to change his game; he had to change his perspective a little bit. To me, it was the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen.”

Jordan was a 14-time All-Star, won six NBA titles, an NCAA championship, two Olympic gold medals and was never taken to a seventh game during the NBA Finals nor did he ever lose in a NBA championship series.

There are past or present NBA players with more impressive numbers, but those who witnessed Jordan in his prime can soberly state no one ever did it better.

Woods is in a similar place. He has 81 PGA Tour victories, 15 major championships and five Masters green jackets. Well, Sam Snead won 82 times on the PGA Tour and Jack Nicklaus has 18 majors and has won the Masters six times.

Still, those who have witnessed Woods in his prime both a decade-plus ago and this past weekend, can also make a reasoned and sound argument that like Jordan, no one has done it better.

With that framework, it’s not hard to imagine that Jordan, an avid golfer and an even more ferocious gambler on the course, would have a special appreciation for Woods’ success.

Three years ago, Jordan said he told Woods that he thought the golfing legend would not be able to return to his former glory.

Jordan was wrong, as were millions of others.

“He’s actually surprised me, and I’m happily surprised,” Jordan told The Athletic. “I never thought he’d get back physically . . . He didn’t think he’d get back physically. But he did it. No one expected him to be back the way he is now. He’s probably the only person who believed he could get back. To me, that’s a major accomplishment. To me, it’s unbelievable. Mentally, you always think you can. But you can’t answer to what your body has to deal with.”

Jordan told The Athletic he watched Woods in the final round Sunday with former world No. 1 Luke Donald. Jordan said Woods’ experience with Augusta National was the the difference in his victory.

“You rely so much on the mental toughness,” Jordan said. “Until you know what you’re capable of doing, you’re going to exert your will when you think you need to do so. But the biggest task is always going to be mental. You’re going against guys who are more gifted physically. But your advantage is mental.

“You have so many things you can draw upon, and the other guys don’t have the same. They don’t have the experience. You think about (Francesco) Molinari hitting it in the water on 12, (Tony) Finau hitting in the water, Brooks (Koepka) hitting in the water on 12. Mentally, (Woods) had to sustain it. From then on it was him trying to figure it out.”

And he did.

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