The Tiger is back
Jon Woodroffe reflects on an incredible Masters….and an incredible comeback
Where do you begin? I’m struggling to remember a better comeback story in sport. For me, it beats Mohammad Ali. Here we have Tiger Woods rising from personal scandals, through severe debilitating physical problems, leaping from 1,195 in the world rankings to take his 5th Green jacket, 22 years after his first. There will be screenwriters in Hollywood onto this like a flash and like most amazing true-life stories you couldn’t make it up.
Like him or loath him for what he has done in his private life, Tiger is irrepressible, and has the sort of clear determination that could probably solve the Brexit problem for us overnight.
The fact that this incredible Masters win was brought forward several hours, due to the impending inclement weather, can only have his incredible feat reach an even bigger audience. It is normally only us die-hards that will stay up beyond midnight on a Sunday evening, to watch the closing stages of this great tournament. The seven pm finish and the live coverage on terrestrial tv means that a whole new audience will have been inspired.
So, to the final round, a bit slow to be honest, and as ever they always say that the tournament starts on the back nine. It has never been more true than this year. I do feel for Francesco Molinari. Twice he took a dip in the Augusta agua: the 12th didn’t help, the 15th finished his chances of donning the green jacket. There were eagles flying around everywhere. Patrick Cantlay made a surge at the 15th only to feel the heady atmosphere at the top of the leaderboard and took bogeys at the next two holes. Brooks Koepka was on the proverbial rollercoaster, double bogey on twelve, dumping in Rae’s Creek, followed by an exquisite eagle, but still just coming up short. Dustin Johnson nearly crept up on the blind side with a four-under back nine, but this was Tiger’s day and in Tiger’s den.
But it was a different Tiger to the marauding, over powering young buck that blasted his way through the field at previous Masters and other majors. This was a more mature, calculating and careful man and golfer; a Tiger, prowling, waiting for the prey to make their mistakes and come out into the open before he pounced. The sensible tee shot on twelve was the moment it all changed. He had seen four of the five players in the final two groups go for a dip in the creek, so he played the way Jack Nicklaus always used to advise, “go for the middle of the green irrespective of where the pin is”. Jack knew a thing or two about adding green jackets to your wardrobe.
Safe par there followed by a routine birdie at thirteen and fifteenth got him the edge, but nearly holing his tee shot on 16 was the final bite that killed off the prey. It conjured up memories of the chip in at the same hole when the Nike tick hovered over the hole before disappearing. All golf fans remember that shot.
Now for the kill, and even then, on eighteen, slightly out of position, he didn’t try the hero recovery. It was more the studious play that allowed a one shot victory, followed by emotion we have never seen before, that belied what the calm exterior had been masking for the past few hours.
To see what this means to the game of golf, one of the biggest roars all afternoon was when the huge scoreboard by the amphitheatre of the 18th green changed to show Tiger had taken the lead. When the final tap in putt was completed, one could sense the storm clouds around Augusta were blown away by sheer human volume. It was a cheer that will reverberate through our industry for years to come.
Can he do it? Can he now go on to beat Jack Nicklaus’s eighteen major’s record? I personally have always said that on his day, when the stars align, Tiger always had the game to win another major. But another three to tie, four to beat him, I don’t think so. There are too many Brooks Koepkas, Dustin Johnsons and others to get in the way. But my goodness, watching the majors has become even more exciting for this win. Roger Federer keeps on winning grand slams, so why not Tiger and majors? Sadly, I feel it will be just too much for this genius, but it is wonderful to see him bring so much life back into our wonderful game. Like many golf professionals, I have so much to thank him for in bringing the game to more people. So, I wish him every success in chasing down Jack’s tally.