The return of the Master, Tiger Woods

Published 3:58 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sunday was one of the greatest days in sports history.

Tiger Woods won a Major tournament. Tiger won The Masters.

After a comeback for the ages—both within the tournament and Tiger’s life in general—the most famous golfer to ever play the game slipped on his fifth Green Jacket. When it was all said and done, he looked exhausted, emotionally drained. But his smile, the inflections in his voice when he talked about how much this win meant to him, told the real story.

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That this could happen after years of pain, agony and ridicule is nothing short of miraculous. The infidelity, the surgeries, the return attempts, the failures, the DUI, the naysayers—a whirlwind of negative attention. It all must have hung over Tiger’s head like a black cloud when he stepped up to that first tee on Thursday. Then with a swing of his driver it was swept away, dissolved in the Augusta, Georgia breeze.

After an outstanding finish last season, Tiger was looking better than he had in a decade. But even I had my doubts of him actually winning the Masters. It was fun to say, sure.

“Tiger’s going to beat the Augusta National score record! He’s going all the way! Lemme tell ya!”

Reality hit on Sunday morning when he was in the final grouping. This could really happen.

It was an unusual Masters Sunday. For the first time in tournament history, there was an early tee time, an attempt to avoid the bad weather sweeping across our state. For the most part, it was a good idea. The worst of the storm was dodged and the ceremony was wrapped up before 3 p.m., when the final round would normally be just getting started.

Francesco Molinari was the leader for the front nine, but found the drink on No. 12—a hole that will surely haunt him for years to come. When a player normally hits his ball in the water, you might hear a soft rumble of “oooohs” from the crowd. With Tiger in the group and only a couple strokes back, we instead heard a deafening roar of cheers.

It’s not you, Molinari. We just wanted to see Tiger win this thing that much.

Tiger found the green. Tiger took the lead a few holes later. Tiger hit a gorgeous tee shot on No. 16 and made birdie to get ahead two strokes. Tiger just needed to bogie No. 18 to win.

He did.

Simply. Amazing.

It’s fascinating to look at the leaderboard and note who was right on Tiger’s heels: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas. The next generation of star golfers—all of the guys that watched Tiger win his first Masters in 1997 and will tell you they committed their lives to the sport because of him.

And leading the way, like the Pied Piper in his Green Jacket, is the one that changed the game forever.

Congrats, Tiger. Welcome back.