Tiger Woods

USA Today

The Cat Did It

Tiger Woods is back.

April 15, 2019 - 9:42 am
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The Cat did it. Tiger Woods won the Masters. Nobody has said that for 14 years. Well, they’ve said “Tiger Woods won the Masters”, but it was always in the context of ancient history. Like “Tiger Woods won the Masters… for the last time back in 2005.

And then he did it again yesterday. Tiger Woods won the Masters.

You know all the numbers by now.

5 – Green jackets now in his closet

11 – years since his last major

14 – years since his last masters

15 –total majors

0 – the times he’d ever come from behind on Sunday to win a major. Until now.

Because yesterday’s comeback from down two shots through 11 holes wasn’t about the comeback from down two shots through 11 holes on Sunday at Augusta. It was about the comeback from everything that he’s put himself through.

And it was unreal, surreal, and totally real.

Unreal in the sense that we were never going to see something like this again. We were never going to see Tiger Woods win again. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that he was having trouble just walking. And sitting. And doing anything. Winning a golf tournament…, let alone that golf tournament, was out of the equation.  This dude was dead cat walking. And he would have told you as much. In fact, he has. 

And then that started to change. He was top 10 at the British Open last year and second at the PGA Championship. He won the Tour Championship. And at that point, it almost, insanely, felt like it was a matter of if, not when Tiger would win another major. And then he did.

And that’s the surreal part. Because yesterday felt so familiar. Everyone around him melting down and Tiger remaining locked in and focused. The red shirt against the familiar background of Augusta National.

Surreal because we were always supposed to see Tiger get to 15 majors. And beyond. It was never a question of if he ran down Jack Nicklaus but rather how small the bear was going to be in the cat’s rear view mirror. 18? There was talk of 25 at one point. But then when he stalled out on 14 for more than a decade, most assumed that’s exactly the number he’d end up on.

And then came yesterday…, we’d seen all of this before. The only difference was less hair on his head and more gum in his mouth. One player after another had a look and fell apart, and Tiger kept on making shots and chewing gum.

Oh. And there was one other difference this time around. He smoked the young guns by running that old man playbook. Let’s face it. At 43, this dude can no longer out physical and outdrive the field. He’s no longer that guy.  So, The Cat wasted all these young dudes, with his mind as much as he did his body; moreso. Strategy, experience, and IQ carried the day for Tiger. He can no longer outdrive these dudes, but he can out-think them. And he did.

And then it was totally real when he got off the 18th green and hugged his children. The shot of him hugging his father in 1997 and him hugging his kids yesterday was extremely poetic The side-by-side of those two shots is like a Renaissance painting. It does not get more powerful than that.

Same with the shot of the players who waited for him to greet him when he came in, and then who went out to congratulate his mother.

He earned that moment and he earned it in the hardest way possible. He could’ve given up. Back when he couldn’t sit or walk, he could’ve retired and nobody would’ve blamed him. He could’ve said that golf is behind me, my body won’t let me play anymore. He could’ve said he just wanted to hang out with his kids and nobody would’ve complained at all. It would’ve made sense.

But he didn’t. He took the hard, humbling, and humiliating road back. And he earned that moment yesterday. He went through one embarrassing moment and round after another, and battled his ass off, to get too yesterday. Respect. Nothing but respect.

In terms of the final round itself, you don’t need me to recap it, because you’ve already seen it. If you were near a television, radio, or phone, you know the moments. Like when Francesco Molinari, who has been a stone cold killer for the first three rounds, dropped one in the water at 12. He went to the water while Tiger took the safer approach and tied Molinari.

And then when Molinari went into the water again on 15, and Tiger birdied.

And then this on 16, with Michael Phelps behind him, Tiger hit that beautiful tee shot.

But don’t get confused here. This wasn’t about Tiger sitting around and waiting for everyone to mess up. One guy after another took a run at the jacket and fell back. That leaderboard was beyond crowded with guys who have won and will win again.

But when it was needed most, Tiger had his composure. The composure that had not been there in years past was there and from 11 to 17, he went par-par-birdie-par-birdie-birdie-par

And then finally this one

There it is. That’s the completion of a great comeback.

You could argue that winning his 15th at Augusta, after everything he has put himself through, it’s his biggest win ever. That’s how big it is. It might be so big that it eclipses the US Open at Pebble Beach, the US Open on one leg, and even the first one at Augusta, the one that makes this all possible.

That’s how big it was. That was a Tiger win. That wasn’t an Eldrick win. That was Tiger Woods winning the Masters. And it was amazing.

And here’s one more thing – as if that win wasn’t already enough, there’s another rumble. Not about Tiger winning a major, but winning a few more. 14 to 15 felt like it would never come. Now that 15 is here, people are already rushing to 18. And not just goofballs, but guys like Brooks Koepka who said "18 is a lot closer than people think. He's definitely back and 18's not far."

There are a lot of caveats and a lot of things that go along with that, so many that it should be left for another day. But the fact is: that conversation is happening. Tiger Woods IS.  Back. And it’s surreal, unreal, and real.