“So where were you on April 14th, 2019?” For centuries to come, this question will be repeated as this will be a day remembered as the day a tiger regained his throne.
Tiger Woods, at the age of 43, has done it again. After an 11-year drought that featured an array of lows sprinkled with some highs, golf’s most polarizing figure has won another major, winning the 2019 Master’s. This is Tiger’s 15th major of his career and is the 5th green jacket he has taken home. During this 11 year drought, spectators far and wide, thought this day would never come. A culture known as the “Tiger Haters” quickly emerged and throughout his ongoing failure, the Tiger haters continued to grow. But with patient, practice and a whole boat load of manual labor, Tiger knew he could one day get back to the top, which he had so often done during his prime. I want to take us back to Thursday, where an eager Woods was set to embark on a four-day journey, that would hopefully lead him back to the promise land.
Tiger Woods started his 2019 Master’s tournament on Thursday, April 11th, at around 11:00 A:M ET. The weather was warm, the greens were soft and Augusta National was in near perfect playing condition. Woods started his round shooting one under par through the first 9 holes. He was driving the ball well, was playing mistake free golf and looked extremely relaxed on the course early on. The one piece of criticism that you could have made, was that Woods was missing some makeable putts which would have allowed him to put up a better score. During the back 9, we saw much of the same from Woods that we saw during the front. He was not taking too many chances which allowed him to regulate his score and maintain momentum throughout the round. As the afternoon came to a close, Woods had shot a 70 for the round, which left him at -2 for the tournament, and put him in a good place in the leaderboard standings.
As the Friday Sun began to rise, Woods was seen on the practice greens working on his putts. It was a different Tiger that we have not been accustomed to seeing over the last few years, and this determination that was shown from one of the greats, was a breath of fresh air. As Tiger began his second round of the tournament, it had seemed that ESPN had made a mistake, and were showing highlights from Woods’s first round, that took place a day ago. Besides a change of clothes, Woods looked nearly identical on the front 9 on Friday, as he did on Thursday, as both instances resulted in a one under par score. As the 14 time major champion made his way around the bend, his attitude began to change. He started to hit his drives better, take more chances on his short game and his putter began to catch fire. You could start to see a belief in Tigers eye and it became clear, that he was here seeking one goal and one goal only, to take home green jacket number 5. Woods would go onto finish his second round shooting a 68, leaving him at -6 for the tournament, which would set him up in a prime position as moving day creeped near.
Tiger teed off on Saturday with a swagger to him that I had not seen since the 1997 Masters. I have watched Tiger all my life, and the attitude that he came out with Saturday afternoon was unlike anything I had ever seen before. He had this look to him, as if he was on the prey to kill and in true Tiger fashion, was not going to stop until the pray had been caught, chewed up and spit out. Through the first 9 holes on Saturday, Woods shot -2 under par and before you knew it, was at -10 for the tournament. The second nine featured a pair of vintage Tiger shots that implicated that Woods was more back than the Jonas Brothers. It was a true joy to watch and if you were not yet a believer that Woods could win this thing, you sure as hell were now. After huge birdies on the 13th, 15th and 16th holes, Woods found himself in second place of the tournament, trailing only behind Italian, Francesco Molinari. Due to the threat of an upcoming storm, the tee times on the final day would be moved up, with the last trio of Woods, Molinari and Finau, teeing off at 9:20 A:M. Little did we know, breakfast at the Master’s would become one of the most historic days in golf history.
It is rumored, that Woods woke up on Sunday morning at 3:45 A:M to prepare for his final round at Augusta. This mentality is usually only found in warriors and Tiger quickly established himself, as a man amongst boys. With the playing conditions being nowhere near as good of shape as they were in previous days, Woods knew he would not be able to light the course up like he did a day ago. He would instead, have to play a patient, mistake free game of golf, and wait for Molinari to make a mistake. As the final round commenced, the duo of Molinari and Woods engaged in an old fashion game of chess. As both continued to not move a muscle, tension began to rise. The first mistake came by the form of Woods, who bogeyed on back to back holes (4-5,) giving Molinari a 3 stroke lead. As Molinari’s putter became as solid as gold, it had seemed as if the only way that Woods was going to win this thing, was if he made some huge chances on the back 9. Then, the historic 12th hole took place, a hole that will haunt Molinari for years to come.
The 12th hole at Augusta is part of a trio of holes known as Amen’s corner. The corner made up of the 10th, 11th and 12th holes on the course, are known as some of the prettiest stretches of landscape you will ever come across in your life. While they may be visually stunning, they are also tricky, as the 12th hole is a par 3 that is surrounded by tempting waters. As Molinari stepped to the 12th tee with a 2 stroke lead in hand, he committed a sin that no professional golfer should ever make; go drinking during a round. His ball found the water and just as it looked like Woods’ hope was coming to an end, a window had burst open and an opportunity to close the gap was presented. This opportunity was capitalized by Woods, as after Molinari doubled bogeyed the hole, he put in a par, putting him at a share of first place at -12. This sequence of events sent the Augusta faithful into a frenzy, and a Woodstock type vibe was given off.
With the momentum now completely shifted in Tiger’s direction, the champ himself, started to take over. Woods birded on 13, 14 and thanks to one of the greatest shots you will ever see, birded on 16, to ice the Masters away.
This was his moment, and no late push from Dustin Johnson, nor Brooks Koepka were going to take that away from him. Woods made his way to the tee box on 18th, with a two-stroke lead. After a Koepka missed birdie putt on 18 which would have trimmed the lead down to one, Woods needed to execute the par 4 18, in just 5 shots to bring home the Masters championship. He played it safe, and walked up to the green with a two put to win in front of him. Woods walked to the 18th green and was welcomed by a defining roar. Not overcome by emotion, Woods tapped the ball in to seal the Masters win. The drought was finally over and a golfer that has been so commonly referred to as the best golfer of all time, was back on top. Woods made his way to the almost exact same spot where he had embraced his late father, after winning the 1997 Masters Championship. This time, Woods was greeted by his mother Kultida, his girlfriend and his son, Charlie, This was a moment that will go down in history and was a moment that was as emotional as the Notebook when it first came out.
So the question now looms, “Where does Tiger go from here.” He is back on top for the first time in over a decade but if we know anything about the 43 year olds competitive spirit, he is nowhere near being satisfied, and is hungry for more. He is going to continue to chase Nicklaus’s major record which is set at 18. He is going to want to win more majors this year and he is going to want to stay on top as long as possible because we all know that Tiger Woods is at his best, when on top. Whatever happens though, one thing is for sure. Today, this week, was truly something special. This will be a tournament that will never be forgotten and for as long as we live, April 14th, 2019 will be known as the day a Tiger regained his throne.