‘Holy s***, Tiger Woods has won the Masters!’
Those were the words of a PGA professional in my ear last night at the end of a crazy day. He couldn’t quite grasp the significance of what had just happened. He didn’t know how to explain it. He was just living in the moment.
Weren’t we all?
Watching Woods walk off 18 and pick up his son, Charlie, then swing him around in pure jubilation, was incredible given the circumstances.
Nearly everyone had written him off. I wrote him off last week (click below) and I wasn’t the only one.
Too few speak out now for fear of public humiliation, and sitting on the fence is boring, but, even so, there wasn’t much to suggest major win No.15 was coming.
He hadn’t won a major championship in 11 years.
He hadn’t won a full field PGA Tour event in six years.
He hadn’t won at Augusta National in 14 years.
He had his fourth back surgery in April of 2017.
He withdrew from Bay Hill just last month citing neck issues.
This year, the closest he’d got to any winner on the PGA Tour was eight shots.
Two years ago Woods doubted his future, with back issues not going away. “I could barely walk,” he said yesterday. “I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lie down. I really couldn’t do much of anything."
None of that pointed to a fifth green jacket. Even Butch Harmon, who knows Woods better than most, said he doubted whether he had it in him to win another major.
The walk off 18 amid the roars of an adoring Augusta crowd, scenes we may never see again, was heart-racing stuff. And it begs the question: what now?
Are we about to go back in time? There were hints of the old days yesterday, with Francesco Molinari wilting under pressure. The famously unnerved Italian folded in the sizeable shadow that Woods was casting all over Augusta National’s back nine.
Like the days of old, players lined up to challenge Woods only to crumble beneath him. Molinari just joined a long list of those who tried and failed.
In his pomp, Woods had his own mind games, his own quirks that he subtly threw in to unnerve opponents. According to an old CBSSports.com storypointing out his tricks, Woods used to hang back before walking to the next tee box so that the crowd screamed for him the most when he arrived on the tee, as if letting his opponent know who was boss.
At times on Sunday, Woods stood in Molinari’s eyeline on the tee box, whereas Molinari did the opposite purposefully (and politely) to move himself out the way. Woods also took an age to work out various putts, as if to shove the significance of what was coming in the Italian’s face. That kind of act has been missing in the last six years, because he hasn’t really been in the position to use it.
What lies ahead is fascinating. The run to 18 is, somehow, back on and suddenly we’re given full rights to get giddy at what might happen at next month’s USPGA at Bethpage, the US Open at Pebble and then the Open at Royal Portrush.
We only talk in these terms about majors because of one man and what we know he’s capable of. And now he is back.
In 31 days he’s on the first tee box at Bethpage and we go again.
We live in magical times.