By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In the first column of the decade, we take a look at an athlete looking to continue greatness after injury and one looking for it entering the NFL Draft.
Tiger Woods looks to build on 2019 golf season
One of the glaring omissions from our best athletes of 2019 list was the rebirth of Tiger Woods’ career. His win at the Masters last spring was an amazing story of a former top golf player coming back from the brink of retirement due to a debilitating back injury and winning on the biggest stage of golf.
Woods’ victory at the Masters was his first major championship win in 11 years and his 15th major tournament victory overall. The last time he won the Masters was in 1997. The 43-year-old became the second oldest golfer ever to win the Masters. The picture of him greeting his young son and daughter after sinking the winning putt on the 18th hole of the tournament was an emotional moment for Woods —during his previous win at the Masters, he was greeted by his late father.
This time around, Woods was able to show his kids how dominant he once was and his hard work to return to the elite level.
Sports Illustrated published a front cover with no words, just a picture of Woods in exaltation after sinking the last putt on the 18th hole. Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by avid golfer, President Donald Trump.
After his Masters victory, Woods was picked as the captain of the Presidents Cup late in 2019. The tournament matches the United States with an international team of golfers.
Woods led the U.S. team to a come-from-behind victory over the international team in Australia this past December. It was the second time ever in Presidents Cup history that the captain played in the competition. Woods’ U.S. team was down going into the last day of golf match play, but came up the victors.
Injuries and personal issues set back Woods’ golf career in past years, but it appears that despite being in his mid-40s, he’s ready to return back to prominence in golf.
Tua declares for NFL Draft
One of the most decorated college quarterbacks coming out of the state of Hawaii, where he is from, is going pro. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa decided on Monday, Jan. 6 that he would enter the NFL Draft after his junior year.
In 2018, he was a Heisman Trophy finalist and one of the top players in college football.
The award went to Kyler Murray of Oklahoma. (Murray, whose mother is Korean, was drafted first overall in the 2019 Draft by the Arizona Cardinals and had a very solid year as quarterback for the rebuilding team. One of the biggest wins of Murray’s rookie season was a victory here in Seattle against the Seahawks.)
Tagovailoa’s decision was difficult as he was injured this past November
Tagovailoa’s decision was difficult as he was injured this past November in a game against Mississippi State. He suffered a dislocated hip and a posterior wall fracture, according to CBS Sports. The injury brought an immediate end to his season. As a junior, he had an option to come back for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft. The question surrounded whether he should return to Alabama due to his injury and show NFL teams looking for a quarterback that he was fully healed from his hip injury. The risk would be the possibility of getting injured again and falling in the NFL Draft. In a sport where injuries could mean the end of your career, Tagovailoa chose to go pro.
Tagovailoa, who is also Samoan, decided to play college football over 4,000 miles away, across the Pacific Ocean and United States in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Coming out of high school, he was one of the nation’s most coveted recruits, and landing with one of the top programs was a good match.
During his time at Alabama, he’s helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship in 2018. Among Tagovailoa’s lengthy list of accolades in football, he was the Offensive MVP of the 2018 Orange Bowl, the runner-up to the 2018 Heisman Trophy, and the Sporting News Player of the Year for 2018.
Despite his season-ending injury in 2019, Tagovailoa is still projected as a first-round draft pick. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Tagovailoa’s arm strength, athleticism, and mental fortitude make him one of the best quarterbacks coming out in the 2020 NFL Draft.
If drafted, Tagovailoa will be on a very short list of Samoan quarterbacks. Notably, former Washington State University’s Jack Thompson and University of Washington’s Marques Tuiassosopo were the last two quarterbacks in the NFL of Samoan descent that had success starting for their teams.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.