Where do you start when you witness history?
For the 2019 Masters, you start at the end, with Tiger Woods bathing in the cheers of patrons chanting his name.
Woods won his fifth green jacket Sunday by one shot over a trio of golfers – Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka.
His 2-under 70 looked better on television than it did on paper. There were times when it appeared he was dismantling a generation of golfers who were inspired by Woods himself to pick up the sport.
Woods was hoarse in Butler Cabin. He was fist pumping on and around the 18th green, letting out screams to whoever would listen. The gum he was chewing all day didn’t stand a chance. He was more excited than emotional.
Woods accomplished something Sunday that many thought was never going to be possible again: he won a major.
Twenty-two years ago Woods came off the 72nd green at Augusta National and hugged his father, Earl. This year Woods came off the green as a champion again, and hugged his two kids.
“It’s just special,” he said in Butler Cabin. The son had turned into a father himself.
Earl Woods passed away in 2006. He didn’t get to see Woods’ triumphs at The Open Championship or PGA Championship later that year, or the PGA Championship the following year and the U.S. Open in 2008, which was, up until Sunday, his final major.
This is the first major championship Woods has won that my grandfather wasn’t around to see, either.
He died the year after Woods won the U.S. Open on one leg. My grandfather – and Woods – was the reasons why I got into golf, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure many had a family member bring them to a course, or hold their hands while they swung or gave them an old club to beat around after watching Woods win in 1997.
I remember where I was for that one and thinking, as a nine-year-old – I want to do that.
So we did, my grandfather and I. That was our thing. He saw all of Woods’ major wins until this one.
When Woods let out a euphoric scream when his short bogey putt found the bottom of the hole to win, I cried a few tears, wishing I could chat about how my golfing hero growing up just did something spectacular.
But through all that, I couldn’t help but be excited for the scene unfolding.
Woods is on top of the golfing world again, and it’s not just those inspired by him as a youngster who are excited, it’s his fellow competitors too.
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, a PGA Tour winner and someone who can say they beat Woods a PGA Tour round pairing, said Woods means so much to the game.
“He’s the man,” Hughes told Sportsnet in a telephone interview Sunday. “I don’t think anyone out (on the PGA Tour) really forgot that over the last little while.”
Hughes, who was just six years old when Woods won his first major, said he’s since watched the 1997 tournament countless times. The meaning of that win, and this win now, he said, are “massive” for the game.
Woods, who has publicly been through personal scandal and devastating injuries, said himself he was unsure whether he’d return to completive golf.
According to Dr. Eugene Wai, the head of the adult spinal surgery at the University of Ottawa, he would have given someone who was returning from spinal fusion surgery just a 50-50 chance of returning to play recreational golf, let alone compete on the PGA Tour.
“I think the unique thing is how hard Tiger must have worked to getting back to his high level. He must have been a machine these past couple of years,” said Wai. “He would have had to build his core back up from scratch after surgery. But also needed to build up the endurance for four 18-hole rounds.”
“Tiger is unique in getting back and winning.”
But he did, and arguably the biggest comeback in sports is complete. It was 11 years since his last major win, but less than two since his mug shot was everywhere, a dazed and confused Woods, full of painkillers, caught asleep at the wheel.
The downs that Woods has experienced make the ups, like this win and the win at the Tour Championship last summer, that much more special.
“Golf is in a great place, but with him playing well and winning majors, it’s 100 per cent better,” said Hughes. “That’s not a slight to golf at all, that’s just how much he means to the game.”
Hughes, like many others, got to witness a great scene unfold at this year’s Masters, courtesy Tiger Woods, again.
Perhaps you were there on site at Augusta National, or you listened in your car or followed along on social media. Maybe you cried a few tears remembering a loved one who’s no longer here, or felt the joy of being a mother or father getting to share this major with your own child after doing the same with your parents 22 years ago.
Whatever your own Sunday experience, it was probably a special one.
It was for Tiger Woods.
Originally published at https://www.sportsnet.ca/golf/tigers-woods-masters-victory-emotional-special-moment/