He Did It

Tiger Wins 2019 Masters; Comeback Complete

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He Did It

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his final putt on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, GA on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his final putt on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, GA on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

David J. Phillip/AP

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his final putt on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, GA on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

David J. Phillip/AP

David J. Phillip/AP

Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his final putt on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, GA on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

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Any sports fan knows that there is nothing like Sunday at The Masters.

The drama and pageantry of the day is undeniable every single year. Usually, it’s a religious-like start to the spring season. While it may not be spring up here in Lake Forest (and it definitely was not this year), it’s always just perfect down at Augusta, and you know that weather will be arriving soon.

This year was a weird one, as incoming storms on the weather forecast pushed tee times forward into the early morning. The first players teed off at 7:30 ET, and the last group got started at 9:20 ET.

CBS coverage even was moved to start at 9 ET (which resulted in likely the first time the first nine holes had been extensively shown on national coverage), and it all ended when things usually just begin nationally, around 2 ET.

Unlike the average year, the weather for Sunday this time around was not perfect, but the golf eventually made you forget like magic.

Soon, I went from manageable expectations to hanging on every single stroke. He just had to do this. It was too perfect. You couldn’t write a better script. ”

Like any year, the pressure was imminent, and the leaderboard was close. Players made their charges in and out of the top spots.

Italian golfer Francesco Molinari began the day with the lead, and maintained it for a good period of time. As time went on and the pressure increased however, Molinari could not keep a grip on things – especially when approaching the infamous “Amen Corner” – sinking his tee shot in the water on the 12th (“Golden Bell”) – echoing the famous slip-up of Jordan Spieth of the exact same nature just a couple years before.

As leaders made their way through the long second nine holes that fans of golf can likely describe in full detail by memory, many other players entered (and sometimes quickly exited) the leaderboard as well – Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantley – just to name a few.

Dustin Johnson jumped up to 12 under par, finishing with likely one of the most quiet second place finishes in Masters history.

There was a pretty clear reason for that lack of attention, however, as there was one distinct constant that captured the attention of thousands at the course and millions watching on TV (with many wearing red in support).


While circumstances and priorities in my life have adjusted my sports focus completely to swimming, and I haven’t been constistently pulling out my clubs for a while, I still have a great amount of affection toward the sport of golf.

I wouldn’t want to generalize too much, but I think that it is pretty clear that a certain age group – from about the younger players who walked Augusta on Sunday all the way down to kids about my age – marks a significant generation of golfers.

I would be willing to say that almost every golfer from this wide age group enjoyed Tiger Woods’ career as a fundamental part of their love affair with the sport. For many, he is the entire reason they play the game.

I was one of them.

For me, my Tiger moment was the last major he won – 2008, U.S. Open, Torrey Pines. On the final hole of his final round, the 32 year old golfer – wearing his usual Sunday red, and walking on what turned out to be a fractured leg – had to birdie to tie then-leader Rocco Mediate, and force a playoff the following day.

So this happened…

The part that sticks in my head of course, is the end. The do-or-die putt, the execution, the fist pump, the yell. Just electrifying.

This moment became synonymous with golf for me at the time as a seven year old, a very young  – but very fascinated – sports fan. I didn’t know much about the sport at the time (being only a seven year old), but whenever I was asked who my favorite golfer was, I knew the answer. “I like Tiger Woods,” I always said, smiling.

Unfortunately I could not recover it,  but somewhere out there, there is a picture of me at that age. I had finished my first full nine holes of golf, and there I was, on the ninth green at Lake Bluff Golf Course, wearing my red Tiger Woods hat doing that iconic fistpump from the video above.

I assume it is the same for many others, who have moments of their own – many of which at The Masters. From his first (and dominant) Green Jacket at a young age, to probably the most iconic shot of the sport in 2005:

Today, nevertheless of my inconsistent playing habits, it has always been a tradition of mine to put the world away for a few hours on this specific Sunday in April. Then, sit back, relax, and enjoy one of the great spectacles of the sports year.

Unfortunately, Woods has not been the same since those glory days – and thus golf has followed that path.

Tiger Woods collapses in pain during the final round of the 2013 Barclays.

Regardless of off-course issues (which, at least in my opinion, should be an entirely separate conversation), he faced tremendous turmoil on the course as well, with detrimental injuries to his back – likely from the wear-and-tear that his game-changing power must have had. He just wasn’t a part of the golf conversation anymore. ESPN and clickbait-y headlines, maybe – but not the REAL golf conversation. These dark times clearly shook a man who had previously seen relentless success.

U.S. golf participation dropped tremendously during this period, and the sport had to adapt to their largest star’s absence from relevance. After his U.S. Open Championship in 2008, Woods, the second all-time most accomplished major champion did not have much of any impact on a single major tournament.

After his last PGA Tour win at the Bridgestone Invitational in 2013, he went on a complete drought – missing cuts and appearing to be all but atrocious in every appearance he made on the tour – which was increasingly inconsistent.

Things were looking bleak in the shadow following Woods’ success, and fans had practically given up – adjusting their attention to the fantastic young golfers of this new rising generation Tiger had created.

But then, some hope came.

In 2018, Woods resumed more consistent contention, in the humble beginnings of a comeback.

It was going to take some patience, but eventually he broke through – at the Tour Championship tournament. While this win was exciting, the golf world knew it was going to take a major championship to make the comeback legitimate and reassured.


As I sat back and watched (per tradition) this morning, this year’s experience felt – once again – just a little different.

While in recent years, Tiger took on a position as the footnote of a rooting interest that never ended up panning out (while I found my new favorites in younger players like Jordan Spieth) – this year was just different.

He was in the real golf conversation again. He was in the final pairing. I thought it could happen, but I just knew I shouldn’t keep my hopes too far up.

I reiterated my position that I held on the show last week. I didn’t mean to quell Michael’s hopes of his Tiger pick then, but I just knew despite my rooting interests – it just would fall through at some point.

Keeping my expectations at a manageable level, I watched him make his way through his final round. He painfully missed a lot of solid birdie chances, sinking par and keeping his score in contention, but nothing to get too excited about just yet.

Soon enough, things shook up just in time for a dramatic finish, and the crowd gasped as the name “Woods” moved its way up the famous leaderboard behind the 18th green.

Suddenly, I felt the nerves that I associate more easily with other sporting events – past Stanley Cup Playoff runs, October baseball, etc. It just dawned on me that it was becoming extremely likely he was going to do it. He could win his first major in eleven years, and it could be at the most perfect and meaningful possible setting.

Then, he approached the 16th hole. From the tee box in which he set up for perhaps his most iconic moment back in 2005, he had a fantastic drive that landed right in the green’s center, just inches wide of the hole. The roar from the crowd was a sound that hasn’t been heard in years.

Soon, I went from manageable expectations to hanging on every single stroke. He just had to do this. It was too perfect. You couldn’t write a better script. There was no way this wasn’t going to work out. I ran upstairs, dug around in my closet, and found my old hat.

He approached 18, and I knew exactly what was coming. The 18th hole (“Holly”) consisted of a straight and narrow tee shot, with plenty of eyes watching from both sides.

His tee shot was not perfect, but did not ruin too much considering he needed a bogey or better to secure the championship. The increasing power of his swing was exciting regardless.

Despite all of this, I was nervous, as I knew anything could happen. I didn’t want to address it, but the worst lingered in the back of my head.

But things seemed to change as he made the famous walk up the fairway, crowds cheering him on as they would with any leader – except a little louder, as they were all thinking about a moment that just may be hanging in the future. I felt it too, breathing heavily.

After some struggles getting on the green, he was finally set up for the championship – a two-putt or better would win it.

He just barely missed the first one, provoking a loud reaction out of the 18th green grandstand, signifying what a great shot it would have been. His mom and kids just waited.

The other players in his group smoothly finished their rounds, likely having their mind on the leader though, as the crowd returned to silence, and he set up for his last shot.

And this happened…

I knew it was gonna hit me hard. I got out of my seat, celebrated, and yelled at the same time he and everyone else did, tears beginning to stream happily down my face. He shook hands with the other golfers in his group, hugged the rest of his team, and then his family.

Tiger Woods, 21, and his father Earl shortly after Woods’ first Masters Championship in 1997, alongside Tiger Woods, 43, and his son Charlie shortly after Woods’ 5th Masters title in 2019 (courtesy ESPN).

As usual, the legendary voice of Jim Nantz narrated the scene, and Nick Faldo seemed taken by the moment alongside him, congratulating the new Masters Champion. He has provided color commentary from Augusta’s Butler Cabin for years, had seen many other champions follow in his own footsteps as a player, but he was taken away by this moment.

Because it was Tiger Woods.

I still can’t believe it happened. But it did in fact happen, and it gave me an emotional reminder of why I love the sport, an emotional rebirth of the Tiger Woods that the sport loved, remembered, and had missed. He had made his return.

While I’m still in shock, I will reassure myself with the simple memory once again, now pairing my fandom as a young golfer with my golf fandom of today – the do-or-die putt, the execution, the fist pump, the yell.

Just electrifying.

Congrats Tiger on completing the comeback of a lifetime. You will always be my happy answer to “Who’s your favorite golfer?” (Getty Images).