Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest golfer ever. No golfer has more PGA Tour wins than Tiger, and only Jack Nicklaus has more major tournament wins. Over the last 20 years, he has consistently attracted more sizable crowds than any other golfer and has greatly expanded the world of golf. Woods’ jaw-dropping shots and stellar short game have turned him into an icon beloved by spectators of all ages. For sports fans, the name Tiger connotes greatness and a following unparalleled by all other athletes.
Tiger made history while wearing his epochal red t-shirt exactly one year before the publication of this article. On April 14, 2019, Woods won the Masters, one of the four majors, widely regarded as the biggest annual golf tournament. The win marked 15 majors for Tiger and was his 5th victory at Augusta National. However, for one of the most dominant athletes of all time, Woods’ journey to his 5th green jacket was quite remarkable.
He started his pro career in 1996 after leaving Stanford University. Within his first 12 years, he would rack up 65 PGA tournament wins and 14 majors, both more than anybody than that span by a long shot, while also being named Sports Illustrated’s 2000s Athlete of the Decade. In 2010, he lost his world #1 rank that he had previously held for 281 consecutive weeks, and suffered minor injuries while failing to win any tournaments on the PGA Tour. Tiger’s play continued trending in the wrong direction, but he rebounded with solid years in 2012 and 2013, winning 8 tournaments over the two-year-span.
However, 2014 was a rough year for him. In early 2014 he had to drop out of several tournaments and missed the Masters, all due to back-related problems. These issues lingered in 2015 and 2016, marking three winless years for Woods. Tiger missed all major tournaments in 2016, the first time ever for him since turning pro. 2017 was no better, as it brought more surgery and missed tournaments.
After four struggle-filled years from Woods, the best golfer since Jack Nicklaus, it appeared as if Tiger’s career was over. Father Time kept dealing blows to his back, but Tiger’s corner refused to throw in the towel. There was no indication that Tiger’s back, with a structural integrity comparable to that of my grandmother, could hold up for another few years on the tour. Nevertheless, Tiger continued to pursue a comeback in early 2018.
In March, light flickered at the end of the tunnel, as Tiger finished tied for second at the Valspar Championship, his first top-5 finish since 2013. At the Open Championship, he finished tied for sixth, his best result at a major since 2009. Was 2018 the year he would get his break? It appeared so, as in September, he captured his first tournament victory since 2013. The win marked a massive step in his comeback, but a major victory continued to elude him. Would he be able to change that in 2019?
Woods opened the Masters by shooting -2, 4 strokes behind the co-leaders. He stepped up his play on day 2, finishing at -6, 1 stroke below 5 co-leaders. On moving day, Tiger took significant strides, moving up to -11, tied for second with Tony Finau, and two strokes off the leader. Sunday, however, is when all the drama began.
Due to threats of thunderstorms later in the day, players were grouped into 3s and tee times moved up. Woods was grouped with Finau and leader Francesco Molinari. Molinari held his lead over Tiger and the field through the first 11 holes and was looking strong. On the par 3 12th hole, Molinari was first to tee off. He went for an aggressive shot near the flag, but his shot missed the green and went into the water. Tiger shot away from the flag on the green, and ended up with a par, while Molinari’s gamble lost him the outright lead. Woods and Molinari were now tied for the lead with 6 holes to play.
On the 15th hole, with Molinari and Woods tied for the lead with others, Molinari’s tee shot veered off into the woods, and he ultimately ended the hole with a double bogey. Tiger capitalized with a birdie to take the outright lead, and those watching knew that nothing could stop Tiger.
Woods went into the 18th hole needing a bogey to win the tournament. His tee shot landed to the side of the fairway, and Tiger had to use 3 shots to get on the green. After narrowly missing the par putt, Tiger swung back his putter and drove through the ball for a tap-in to secure his 5th Masters win, throwing his arms in the air in celebration. Woods embraced his mother, son, and daughter on the way to the clubhouse to pick up yet another green jacket.
While Tiger Woods may not be the dominant golfer he was during the 2000s, he certainly thrilled fans with his win at the Masters. Tiger went on to win another small tournament and is currently still active on the PGA Tour. His historic victory at the 2019 Masters was a gift to golf fans, and hopefully he’ll be able to capture another major victory before he hangs up the clubs for good.