If the first decade of Tiger Woods' incredible PGA career is like something out of a movie, the past 10 years have given him the material to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
One year ago last weekend, Woods was arrested on Memorial Day for driving under the influence. Since then, he's made quite the return to golf, and tees it up this week at the Memorial Tournament - an event he’s won five times before - with some opportunity for redemption in the winner's circle.
The toxicology report completed after Woods' arrest last year, obtained by ESPN, said Woods had the generic forms of painkillers Vicodin and Dilaudid, the anxiety and sleep drug Xanax, and the anti-insomnia drug Ambien in his system, along with THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
He'd made it about 15 miles from his home in West Palm Beach, Fla., before he was pulled over at 2 a.m.
It was another tumble down the mountain of stardom for Woods, who hadn’t returned to any semblance of golfing form after undergoing surgery to fuse his back together a few weeks prior to the arrest.
Not long afterward, Woods found himself at a drug-abuse rehab facility. He checked himself in and stayed for a month. In a July 3 statement, he said he'd finished an "out of state private intensive program" and would "continue to tackle this ... with my doctors, family, and friends."
At that point, it didn’t seem like Woods would return to golf. But the usually private athlete took to social media to start offering updates on his progress.
He first tweeted about his chip shots at the end of August ("Dr. gave me the OK to start pitching"). Five weeks later, he provided another update on his iron shots after he'd served as an assistant captain for the victorious American Presidents Cup team.
That post was particularly poignant, as he'd told the Presidents Cup captains' press conference that he didn’t know what his future held. When asked if he could envision a scenario in which he didn’t return to competitive golf, he answered "definitely."
"My timetable is based on what my surgeon said," he told reporters. "As I alluded to last week, I'm hitting 60-yard shots."
It didn't take long for that timetable to shorten considerably. One week later, Woods posted a swing with the driver ("Making Progress").
He kept progressing at home in Florida and announced he would play his offseason event, the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, in November.
About a month after he was hitting those paltry 60-yard shots, Woods shot three rounds in the 60s, and then announced he'd play at the Farmers Insurance Open - an event he’s won eight times - in late January.
The 42-year-old has now played eight tournaments on the 2017-18 PGA Tour schedule, nearly winning the Valspar Championship in March. His result at the Masters was pedestrian (tied for 32nd), but he got in some prep work for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills earlier this week and remains focused on the bigger events on the schedule.
If nothing else, Woods has been consistent this year.
He’s missed only one cut and has four top-12 finishes. His scoring average ranks 12th on Tour. He’s 24th in driving distance, eighth in club-head speed, and hasn’t missed a putt inside 3 feet all year. (He is 200th in driving accuracy, though, hitting just over 50 percent of his fairways).
Considering where he stood a year ago, his progress is remarkable. Jack Nicklaus, who hosts this week's event, is shocked that the 42-year-old returned to golf after four back surgeries, and said Woods still has a chance to break Nicklaus' major-championship record of 18.
Woods has finished in the top five at the Memorial more than half the times he’s teed it up, although his most recent result was less encouraging - he shot a third-round 85 at Muirfield Village and finished last.
"I think he'll win when he believes it himself between his ears," said Nicklaus, golf's greatest winner of all time.
Woods is healthy, in form, and he's put a lot of distance between himself and the events of last year's Memorial Day weekend.
All this screenplay needs is a feel-good ending.
Adam Stanley has written about golf since 2011 for PGATOUR.com, LPGA.com, and the Canadian Press, among other organizations. He's also a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail. Find him on Twitter @adam_stanley.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)