On a balmy summer’s day at Torrey Pines in 2008, Tiger Woods lifted up the U.S. Open trophy, winning his 14th major on one leg. In 2005 at Augusta National, Woods’ “chip-in for the ages” on the 16th hole, would propel him to his fourth Green Jacket. Those who had followed and admired Tiger Woods believed that catching Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championship record would be a foregone conclusion.
But it would be 14 years since his last Masters and 11 since that epic U.S. Open performance before Tiger Woods would be in the winner’s circle at a major championship. Separated by time, scandal and a plethora of injuries, Tiger Woods overcame what many deemed to be impossible. By shooting a final round 70, he would secure the 2019 Masters by one stroke, etching himself into the annals of golf history with his 15th major championship win.
“Woooooo!!!” yelled out Woods as he ran into the scorer’s room, amidst a pandemonium of patrons yelling “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!”
The comeback is finally complete. Tiger’s back.
Tiger Woods Once Considered Quitting the Game of Golf
The Masters and Tiger Woods have become a conglomeration for the golf world every April. Since Tiger’s historic victory at the 1997 Masters, where he set the lowest four-round score at Augusta National (270), it became a realistic expectation that Woods would compete every year at this major.
But as a result of multiple injuries and surgeries to his back, knees and Achilles heel, there was a distinct possibility that Tiger Woods could not play golf again. He couldn’t walk his dog. Playing with his kids, Sam and Charlie, became a difficult burden. Even attending the Masters Champions Dinner two years ago, a staple tradition for past winners of the tournament, was riddled with pain and impending sorrow.
“I’m done, I won’t play golf again,” said Tiger at the 2017 Masters Champions Dinner.
Words that no golfing fan wanted to hear. But a reality that Tiger once deeply considered, given the pain and suffering he was experiencing on a daily basis. Playing golf wasn’t even on his radar. Just having a quality of life that he could enjoy, was an existence he wanted to attain.
Tiger Woods Was Showing Signs that Major Win was Imminent
The golf prodigy, who became the most dominant athlete in sports, experienced arguably the most stunning fall from the pedestal of greatness. But one last-ditch effort at a surgery back in 2017, where his back became fused, would prove to be the procedure that would transform his life.
The 2018 PGA Tour season would be marked as the year the comeback began for Tiger Woods. He was in contention at the Valspar, Arnold Palmer Invitational and the PLAYERS Championship, just falling short. At the Open Championship, Tiger Woods walked to the 11th tee with the lead at the punitive Carnoustie golf course. But mistakes led to bogeys and Tiger would fall to Francesco Molinari’s brilliant steady play, going 37 holes without a bogey.
At the PGA Championship in Bellerive, Woods rallied once again in the final round, despite missing many fairways on the Front 9. But the clock turned back with the roars from the St. Louis crowd. Tiger was once again on the prowl, heading to the Back 9 one back of the lead. But being in contention and winning a major championship is a tremendous hill to climb. Brooks Koepka was in the way of Tiger winning his 15th major, snagging his third major in the last six he had played in away from the Big Cat.
Not a month later, the facets of Tiger’s game would all work in coordination at the TOUR Championship. As the gallery at East Lake ran onto to the 18th fairway that Sunday afternoon, Tiger tapped in to turn a page in his golfing career. His 80th PGA Tour victory was the return to glory for an athlete who had to conquer unimaginable adversity. Laying the foundation for what would come in April at The Masters.
“The win at East Lake was a confidence boost for me. I had come close but I needed to cross the finish line. It proved that I can still win out here with the best guys,” stated Woods.
Tiger Peaked at the Perfect Amphitheatre
Six months ago, preparation would begin for Tiger Woods to compete in the 2019 Masters. At the start of the 2019 PGA Tour season, Woods admitted that he would be playing less. So he could focus his mind, body, and game on winning major championships.
Heading into the final round of The Masters, Woods was in a familiar position. In the final group of a major and in the hunt, two strokes back of 54-hole leader Francesco Molinari. All 14 of Tiger’s previous major championship victories, he was in the lead. Playing in threesomes earlier in the day with the fear of inclement weather coming to Augusta, Woods had to start the preparation in the early morning hours.
“The reward is for playing hard and doing all the things correctly you get a little extra sleep in come Sunday, but that’s not going to be the case. We’ve got to get up early and get after it,” says Woods.
Once considered the giant killer who would intimidate opponents with out of this world shots, Woods’ emotions were in check throughout the final round. He was just hanging in there. Not shooting his way out of the tournament. The 12th hole in the final round was the epitome of the new Tiger Woods. With Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau hitting their tee shots into the water, Woods’ goal was to hit to the middle of the green. Which he did with ease. Woods wasn’t out to make the miracle shot but rather the smart shot. This mentality got him two birdies on the par-5 13 and 15 holes, followed up with an epic tee shot on the par-3 16th, reminiscent of Jack Nicklaus’ in 1986.
Tiger showcased his mental toughness once again but by being stoic and in the zone.
“I was just trying to plod my way around the golf course,” said Woods. “The best part of my game this week was shaping the golf ball. Two months ago, I was in a similar position. I was just telling myself to keep doing all the little things correctly and playing my game. I did that today.”
Tiger Woods’ Masters Victory Captures a Full Circle Moment with Family By His Side
“There is a difference between a roar for me and a roar for Tiger Woods,” Dustin Johnson affirmed after his final round on Sunday.
When Brooks Koepka missed his birdie chance on the 18th to tie Woods atop the leaderboard, the patrons at Augusta National knew that the Big Cat had this in the bag. Only requiring no worse than a bogey on the 72nd hole, Tiger would experience the jubilant coronation from the gallery, walking up the 18th fairway. Many golf historians are quick to reflect on Jack Nicklaus’ epic 30 on the Back 9 at the Masters in 1986, to win his 18th major at the age of 46. But Jack did not have to endure the trials and tribulations of coming back from injuries as Tiger did. Knowing the adverse road Tiger has been on to get to winning his 15th major championship, makes the victory even sweeter.
“I am just so grateful to have the opportunity to do this again,” stated Woods. “It’s ironic that the first major I would win since the comeback it would be from behind. It’s amazing.”
Winning his fifth Green Jacket, Woods was 10 of 14 fairways hit (74 percent), 15 of 18 greens in regulation (83 percent) and had 1.78 putts per green in regulation for the final round. When the win became official, the emotionally contained Woods let out a scream that was a semblance of when he would win majors on a consistent basis. When Tiger won in 1997, his embrace with his Father, Earl Woods, reflected the long journey it takes to secure a major championship. On Sunday, Tiger’s role reverse, as he hugged his kids and Mom, who were green side. A moment that the 15-time major winner will cherish for the rest of his life.
“For a long time, my kids saw that golf caused me a lot of pain. I struggled for many years,” said Woods. “The kids are understanding how much golf means to me and what I’ve done for the game. I hope they are proud of what I achieved.”
On the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, Tiger was back on the prowl. The road to greatness often is accompanied with potholes and obstacles. Tiger Woods once again proved that never giving up can lead to history being achieved.
And for the rest of the golf world, that means the Big Cat isn’t going away for a long time.