The Masters is a tradition unlike any other, and the 2019 Masters was unlike any other golf event or sports competition the world has ever seen. The 2019 Masters will be remembered forever as the tournament where Tiger Woods won his 15th major and officially reemerged back onto the competitive golf scene. But for Tiger, this win was bigger than golf.
From a young age, the pressure to perform was real. As young kid, Tiger was put in front of cameras, showing off his putting skills and creamy smooth swing for viewers around the world to see. Even though he was just a kid, Tiger was already becoming accustomed to the spotlight.
At the age of 20, Tiger became a pro and the rest is history. Coming into the 2019 Masters, Tiger had won 80 tournaments, including 14 majors (2nd only to Jack Nicklaus’ 18). Tiger had quickly become the most dominant golfer of all time and had taken over the sport of golf. He was the face and ambassador for the sport. He was untouchable. In his classic “victory red”, Tiger was looked at as one of the most intimidating figures in all of sports. He was bigger than golf. That all changed in the blink of an eye.
In 2008, the injury bug not only stung Tiger, but left him on crippled for many years to come. Multiple knee, achilles, and four separate back surgeries left the superstar unable to perform, and even when he did, he just wasn’t the same Tiger golf fans around the world were accustomed to seeing. In the midst of Woods’ many surgical procedures and a struggling golf game, Tiger once again found his name in the spotlight, but this time it was for all the wrong reasons.
In November of 2009, the National Enquirer published a report that Woods had an extramarital affair with a New York City nightclub owner. Within the next few days, Tiger was in a late night car accident near his home in Florida where he hit a fire hydrant, a tree, and several hedges. Speculation grew and in the following December, it was released that Woods was having an affair with a mistress. Woods apologized and took responsibility for his actions, but as the days went by, dozens of other women came forward stating they had been involved with Woods. Following this development, Woods announced he would be taking a break from professional golf. The face of golf quickly lost endorsements and the support of many of his most faithful fans. The prodigy was lower than he had ever been before. Woods finished a 45-day rehab session and began his road back to play. He attempted a return, but was just a shadow of the golfer he once was.
At this point, many considered Woods’ career finished and that injuries and a scandal had tainted and ruined the golfer who was once the face of the game. As he continued his road back, Woods began to inch closer and closer to a return to competitive golf, but seemingly with each inch gained another obstacle presented itself. In 2017, the Stanford alum was arrested in Palm Beach after driving under the influence and was issued a DUI. Woods also had prescription drugs in his system during the arrest. Rock bottom had hit. The athlete once known as the most dominant in the world was about as low as he could go.
After his arrest, the idea of Tiger playing professional golf again was a pipe dream, and the thought of him winning another tournament was just out of the question. Tiger continued his road back to play, and with it, he slowly started to regain the trust and support of his fans and the golf community. In 2016, Bridgestone signed Woods to an endorsement deal, the first since his fall from grace in 2008. In 2018, Tiger was back playing professional golf, a sight many fans never thought they’d see again. In that same year Tiger won the Tour Championship, his first tournament victory since 2013. The one-time face of golf showed flashes that he could once again compete with the top golfers in the game.
And that brings us to 2019. With the support of a majority of the golf community and all eyes on him, it was now time for Tiger to chase his 15th major. Rolling up to Augusta National, the 42- year old was coming in with 14/1 odds to win the green jacket, quite favorable considering he was beginning his prime before many of the young stars of golf had their tour card. Woods emerged during 2nd and 3rd days of competition with escores of 68 and 67, then sealed the deal with a dramatic 18 holes with Francesco Molinari. He held off Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson who all finished with scores of -12. Woods edged them out with a score of -13.
As Woods pulled set himself up for a tap-in putt on the 18th hole in the final round of the Masters to capture his 5th green jacket, it was a moment that will remain as one of the top moments in the sport for all of eternity. As his final shot dropped, the crowd roared as Woods looked up to the sky and let out a victory cry. With that victory cry, Woods let go of years of pressure, hate, and concern that he may never be the golfer he once was. But here he was. At 43 years old, slightly balding, and over a decade past his last major victory, Tiger Woods was back at the pinnacle of the golf landscape like few thought imaginable.
When people look back and talk about the 2019 Masters, they’ll consider it a comeback for the ages. A comeback that brought arguably the game’s greatest from the depths of despair to the mountain top of golf. But that isn’t the reason I’m proud to be a Tiger Woods supporter.
Adding to Woods’ collection of major championships I’m sure means a lot to him, but the greatest comeback we saw on Sunday was rejuvenation and moment that signified that Tiger regained his life back. Whether he wins another major or never tees up ever again on the professional level, that is the biggest victory is just that, Tiger is back to being a golfer, a father, and a role model for people all around the globe.
For years, the one-time teen phenom was the target for disgust and hatred for his actions in the affair, DWI, and drug abuse. Was I supportive of his actions? No, not at all. Like everyone else, I was disappointed and upset. But as I look back on my life, I relate to Tiger, and you should too. Like all of us, Tiger screwed up. He messed up, and messed up bad. With his life under the microscope, Tiger showed us that even the best in the world are not perfect.
What made Tiger famous and brought him to fame was ironically what allowed him to piece his life back together and bring him back into the limelight. Tiger’s grittiness and mental toughness which was built on the course also translated off the course, allowing him to bounce back from an affair, addiction, and substance abuse. For many of us, we may know people who have found themselves in those same situations where a mistake has changed their lives forever. Whether it’s an affair, addiction, substance abuse, a mistake can bring people to their knees and stain a life of happiness and joy. Encountering all three, Tiger’s mental fortitude on the course allowed him to rebuild a life that was broken and torn, and that is more impressive and more meaningful than any green jacket will ever be.
As Tiger walked off the 18th green, he was greeted by his family, and meeting him first was his son, Charlie. An image that will surely hang in the Woods’ residence somewhere captured the hearts of golf fans and non-golfers alike. In iconic fashion, where Charlie greeted his dad on the 18th green is nearly the exact spot where a 20-year old Tiger Woods fell into the arms of his father after winning his first major and first green jacket. It was a moment of coming full circle. A journey that no else has taken, but along the way many had criticized.
Sure, sports have seen comebacks before. We saw Michael Jordan comeback after three years out of the NBA to play for the Washington Wizards. We also saw the Virginia Cavaliers bounceback after becoming the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed and win the National Championship the following year. We’ve seen underdog stories and athletes flash their resiliency throughout sports history, but nothing quite like what Tiger worked through. Not only was his comeback on the course, but off the course as well. No other comeback story of this magnitude, under such a large microscope has involved so many different facets both on and off the course.
Whether you like him or hate him, if you think he’s back to his old self or if this is a one–time fling, I ask that you respect Tiger Woods. Not only for what he’s done for the game of golf, but what he’s done as a human being. Overcoming adversity on and off the course through injuries, affairs, addiction, and substance abuse, his mental toughness never changed.. His willingness take on these obstacles for the game he loves is special, but what is even more special is that Tiger can let go of the pressure and guilt and now just be what he should have always been: a human being, a father, and a golfer.