By Sterling Pingree
Tiger Woods won the Masters.
I didn’t think I would ever say those words again unless I was talking about one of his previous four triumphs. One of the two greatest golfers of all-time, won his first major in almost 11-years, his first Masters in 14-years and won the tournament 22-years after he did it for the first time back in 1997.
Tiger’s 11-year drought without a major championship after his harrowing performance on one leg at Torrey Pines back in 2008 felt like an odessey into the desert. The most dominant athlete of this generation had his world fall completely apart 5 or 6 times. Much has been written about Woods’ sex addiction, the record divorce settlement from wife Elin Nordegren, injuries, DUI, pills, surgeries, separations and scandals.
For Christmas I received a copy of Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian’s book “Tiger Woods”. Reading golf books in December, even for me, can be a tough task. (It’s like visiting Gifford’s on a diet, it’s just not fair, Christmas in Maine is atleast 4 months away from the golf season.) So I saved the epic tome and made my plan to read it the week before the 2019 Masters. The book could be considered salacious if the material wasn’t true, but most of it probably is. If Motley Crue didn’t already have a book called The Dirt, Armen and Jeff could’ve used that for this effort just as applicably. But reading this over 400-tale this week made me appreciate the last 4 days even more.
11-years is a long time. The 11-years that Tiger Woods went without a major championship was a wondering time for a lot of people besides Woods. Golf fans (myself included) who first got interested in golf by watching Tiger’s record breaking Masters win in 1997 didn’t know what to do. Most kept the faith that our hero would return to the top of the mountain, some got off the train and onto other things and many were simply turned off by the mountain of accusations that mostly turned out to be true. For those who remained invested in Tiger, this is the ultimate payoff. This is the reunion tour of the band you never thought you’d see again and the songs sound just as good as they did before, perhaps better than anything that’s currently on the radio.
There is no theatre like the back 9 at Augusta on Sunday and today was a masterpiece (no pun intended, the lords of Augusta would never allow puns). Not only did you have Woods in the final group, you had the early start time (which was phenomenal and should become the new standard for Sunday at the Masters) but you also had a loaded field atop the leaderboard. Not only were players like Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson in contention but the two players that denied Tiger Woods majors in 2018 appeared to be standing in his way yet again. Francesco Molinari, who edged Tiger last year at the Open Championship held a 2-shot lead heading into Sunday. But after the Italian went swimming on 12 and 15, it was Brooks Koepka who appeared steadfast to deny Tiger again just as he did at last year’s PGA Championship. But it was Koepka’s birdie miss on 18 that took almost all of the drama off of Tiger’s walk up 18 on Sunday.
Tiger’s back. He has 15 major championships, 3 shy of Jack Nicklaus and after being in hibernation for so long, it appears we are free to discuss whether or not Tiger can catch the Golden Bear instead of whether or not Tiger will ever win another major. Tiger is 43, three years younger than Jack was when he won his 18th and final major at Augusta in 1986. Tiger’s win gives us a moment of joy, one of the great sports moments of all-time, but it has given us so much more. It has given us at the very least a positive conclusion to the story of Tiger Woods and at most it has added a level of drama via the power of possibility for what the next few years may hold. With Tiger, it’s just different, but something about this feels oh so familiar.
Tiger’s back and so is history.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket. Streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, DriveShowMaine.