Tiger is back on the prowl
Photo By: CBS
David Skarupski, Sports Editor
Tiger Woods officially reclaimed his position on top of the world of golf Sunday, winning The Master’s Tournament for the fifth time in his illustrious and turbulent career.
Woods won the annual tournament held in Augusta, Ga. by shooting a 70 in the final round Sunday to finish at -13, besting runners-up Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Xander Schauffele by one stroke.
With his victory, Woods moved into second place all-time for Master’s wins, breaking a tie with Arnold Palmer. Woods only trails the legendary Jack Nicklaus, who won six Master’s in his career. Additionally, Woods added his fifteenth victory in his career, moving him within three major victories of Nicklaus’s record of eighteen.
Woods has had an incredible amount of success throughout his career, but this victory was far more significant than the numbers indicate. As last year’s winner Patrick Reed slipped Woods into the Green Jacket that is given to the Master’s winner every year, and is symbolic of the ascension to the pinnacle of success in professional golf, feelings of redemption and retribution filled the air.
The last time Woods had been adorned in the Green Jacket was fourteen years ago, in April 2005. As Woods defeated Chris DiMarco in a playoff to win his ninth Major championship in eight years, the writing seemed to be on the wall for him to become the greatest golfer of all-time.
Few people would have guessed at that point that Woods would not win another Master’s until 2019, especially after Woods compiled five more major championships from 2005-2008.
Even fewer people would have guessed that Woods would have a very public falling-out with his then-wife Elin Nordegren over Woods’s infidelity that led to the couple’s divorce and extensive and scrutinous media coverage. Mixed with a myriad of back problems and extensive surgeries to correct the issues, it seemed as if the once-immortal Tiger Woods would never again achieve the dominance that was stripped from him so abruptly, let alone win another coveted major championship like The Master’s again.
While CBS commentator Jim Nantz announced that Woods had broken retired golfer Gary Player’s previous record of years between Master’s victories and tied a record held by four golfers for years between major championship victories, the real story went beyond those numbers. The excitement and raw emotion came from the reconstruction of a legend who had tirelessly clawed his way back from issues that would have ended most golfers’ careers.
The importance of this moment could be felt through a television screen. As Woods walked up the 18th fairway with a two-stroke lead and an almost sure victory in hand, he kept a stoic look on his face, but the visible beads of sweat that had formed on his face betrayed his actions, hinting that this moment was special. As Woods sunk his final putt, he could only contain his emotions for a few seconds before he threw his arms triumphantly in the air and screamed in a manner that can only be described as joyous and relieved. The eruption of applause from the fans after Woods sunk that final putt indicated that he was not the only person emotionally invested in his victory.
“To come back here and to play as well as I did, and did all the little things well this week, and to do it here—this meant so much to me and my family, this tournament, to have everyone here,” Woods said in an emotional interview following the tournament. “It’s something I’ll never ever forget.” This Master’s will never ever be forgotten by any fan of the game.
Moving forward, the chase for 18 majors—the all-time record held by Nicklaus—will again be associated with Woods in golf’s lexicon for the first time since the early 2000s. While Woods was a younger and more dominant golfer than, he proved that with his differences he can still compete at the highest level.
In certain ways, Woods is doing more now to prove his mettle than he ever did in his younger days. According to Golf Digest, Woods is the 6th-ranked golfer in the world with his win, moving up 1,193 spots since December 2017. Additionally, Sunday’s win marked the first time in Woods’s career that he won a major without having the lead going into the final round.
With three of the four major championships left to be played this year, the spotlight will be on Woods and questions will be answered about whether he can continue to compete at a championship-caliber level, or whether Sunday’s win was a feel-good story that was a one-off performance. While speculation is high, the all-time leader, Nicklaus is not counting him out, according to an interview with USA Today. “I thought for a long time he was going to win,” he said, “So, he has got me shaking in my boots.”
The future will tell Nicklaus’s fear is justified, but for now, the chase is back on.