Column: Tiger Woods is golf’s one true master

Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

For the fifth time in his career, but remarkably for the first time in 14 years, Tiger Woods is the winner of The Masters Championship at Augusta National.

Woods’ 15th career major championship came differently than the preceding 14. Tiger had never won a major championship without leading after 54 holes. When round four began early Sunday morning, Woods was going to have to do something he had never done before: Come from behind to win a major.

Francesco Molinari entered Sunday with the solo lead at 13-under 59 after shooting 5-under 67 and 6-under 66 on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Molinari looked like an absolute machine going into Sunday. He had recorded a bogie on the 11th hole of the first round, but since then he had not finished a single hole over par. Tony Finau and Woods were tied for second at 11-under 61, rounding out the Sunday threesome.

Because of inclement weather later in the day, play on Sunday began at 7:30 a.m. with players playing in groups of three instead of the usual two. Some groups also started play on the back nine as well as the front to save time.

Woods started the day wavering a bit. After a birdie on three, he bogied four and five to start the day at 1-over 73. He managed to record a bogie on the fifth hole every round of this tournament. But if you counted Tiger out after the first five holes on Sunday, shame on you.

Back-to-back birdies on seven and eight brought Woods up to 1-under 71, then a bogie on 10 brought him back to even. From then on out, Tiger didn’t look back.

Woods birdied 13, 15 and 16, going 3-under 69 through four tough holes to take a two-stroke lead. His tee shot on 16, which is a 170 yard par three, very nearly rolled in for a hole-in-one which would have had the golf world in a frenzy. He almost seemed disappointed that he didn’t hit the ace as he rolled in the tap-in birdie that gave him a score of 14-under 58 and a two stroke lead with just two holes to play.

Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson each had a chance to apply pressure to Woods with birdie putts on 18, but both missed and settled for pars to enter the clubhouse at 12-under 60. Molinari, who again hadn’t recorded any bogies Friday or Saturday, had a bogie on the front and two double bogies on the back nine to send him tumbling down the leaderboard. Tiger just had to play holes 17 and 18 at 1-over 73 or better to win The Masters.

After a textbook par on 17, Woods played 18 safe and rolled in a tap-in bogie. With a final score of 13-under 59, Tiger put the green jacket on over his iconic Sunday red for the fifth time in his legendary career. “It fits,” Woods said in Butler Cabin.

You can break down Woods’s game all you want. You can point at his average driving distances, his greens hit in regulation or any other statistic. The most impressive thing about Woods is his resilience, mental toughness and ability to play at the highest level on the biggest stage, and this Masters win represents exactly that.

Broadcasters Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo tried to put the moments following the final putt into words. Nantz called it “the return to glory.”

“That will be the greatest scene in golf forever,” Faldo said as Woods walked off the course toward Butler Cabin.

The first person to hug Woods following the win was his son Charlie, wearing a black Nike cap and red Nike golf shirt to match his dad. Born in 2009, Charlie wasn’t alive for any of his father’s previous major victories.

The Masters is a tournament that prides itself on its historic significance, as it really is a tradition like no other. It was only fitting that Woods would win his first major in 11 years at Augusta National.

Tiger Woods wears his green jacket holding the winning trophy after the final round for the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Tiger Woods wears his green jacket holding the winning trophy after the final round for the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Woods’s story is one of soaring highs and devastating lows. Between his first major victory, which was the 1997 Masters, and his 14th at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Woods was by himself at the top of the mountain as the most dominant athlete in his sport. Nobody on tour could touch him, and everybody knew it.

Woods was a household name, and almost anybody that knew what the game of golf was knew who he was. The process in the mid-2000s in which courses had to change their layouts and make themselves longer was called “Tiger-proofing.” Players used to fear getting paired up with Woods on Sundays, knowing the added pressure of playing in front of enormous galleries of fans rooting for their opponent would shake them up. Woods was a cold blooded killer on the golf course, and everybody knew it.

Fourteen majors over an 11-year span has never been done before, even by Jack Nicklaus, who remains the only player that has more majors than Tiger with 18. But then came an 11-year stretch where Woods didn’t win a single major, and rarely played much at all. Over those 11 years we saw the second act of Woods’s career, and it was very different from the first.

I remember gathering around the TV with my family — all avid golf fans — over Thanksgiving weekend in 2009. The news had just come out that Woods crashed his car in front of his Florida home after an argument with his then-wife, Elin Nordegren. As the week went on, rumors of Woods having multiple affairs behind Nordegren’s back came to surface, and Woods decided to take an indefinite break from golf. The break would last from December 2009 to April 2010.

Woods’ first win since the incident came in 2011 in the Chevron World Challenge, nearly two full years later. The comeback was short-lived, as Woods began to develop serious back problems. Between 2014 and 2017, Woods had four surgeries on his back. His world golf rank dropped to an all-time low in December of 2017 at 1,199th in the world. This is the same guy that held the No. 1 spot for a record 683 weeks. In the eyes of many, Woods was finished.

Few people still believed; I had my doubts. But Woods never stopped. The 2018 season marked the beginning of Woods’ comeback. After a T-6 in The Open and a second place finish at the PGA Championship, Tiger went on to win the Tour Championship, the final FedEx Cup event, in September. The win marked Woods’ first victory in five years.

Fast forward through a steady round one two-under-par , a pivotal round two five-under-par, a masterful six-under-par on Saturday that put the living legend at the top of the leaderboard and an emotional Sunday performance, and folks, Tiger is officially all the way back.


Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at sean.janos@uconn.edu.