Tiger, Tiger, Tiger
own the chute to the clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club Sunday, a familiar cheer followed him, “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!”
I have never been a Tiger Woods fan. I respected what he did on the course, and hated him for his actions away from it.
However, as Sunday morning rolled into Sunday afternoon, Tiger became compelling to watch. After joining my mother, my son and his girlfriend for breakfast, I fully expected to spend the afternoon watching the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins play in Game Three of their best-of-seven opening round NHL playoff series. My brother sent me a series of pictures of his youngest in full Penguins apparel, suggesting that she was ready for the big game. I sent him a message back saying that she need some Islander blue. He responded with a fun little comment on John Tavares that I cannot repeat, but laughed at upon reading.
When I got home, I put the game on my television. Shortly after that, I threw the Masters up on my computer screen. I can see both screens from my couch, so I figured I was in sports heaven.
I was disappointed to watch the Penguins score first. I was elated to see the Islanders score twice shortly after and take that lead into the first intermission.
I looked over to the Masters and saw that Tiger was in the hunt, but not winning. He, like so many others, was still chasing Francisco Molinari.
As I continued to monitor what was happening at Augusta, I was also enjoying the Islanders frustrating the Penguins at every turn. However, I noticed that I was spending more time watching what happening on my smaller screen than I was the bigger one.
As Tiger was getting better, the wind and rain were kicking up. Molinari started to fade, a little at a time. I have seen majors go through something like this before, but it had been years since Tiger started back in the pack and stood firm while everyone else failed.
Nearing the start of the third period of the Islanders/Penguins game, I was fully invested instead in what was happening at Augusta. Tiger was finishing up the 17th and he had a two-stroke lead at the time.
It is hard to win a golf tournament. It is harder still to win a PGA golf tournament. The hardest thing to win in golf, in my opinion, is a major. I know that Tiger had 14 of them already under his belt as he stepped up to the 18th tee.
His last had been back in 2008, when he needed an 18-hole playoff to defeat Rocco Mediate. Mediate did everything that he could, but, in the end, it was not enough to defeat arguably the greatest golfer in history.
The pressure he must have felt lining up that final drive, one that needed just the slightest of fades, was enormous. He was not leading by 12, as he did on the final hole in 1997. He was also not the youngest player in the field anymore, as he was in 1997.
Tiger’s drive faded right, but perhaps a bit more than he intended, leaving him without a clean shot at the pin. That set up a second shot unlike any I have seen Tiger take in the final round of a tournament with a chance to win.
Fully invested in the Masters at this point, I switched my TV over to watch what happened next. Tiger laid up. The shot itself was brilliant. CBS’ Jim Nantz reminded the audience that he just needed a five to win, probably because he was shocked as I was that the great Tiger Woods just laid up on a reachable shot.
Just when I thought the drama was over, Tiger drew me in again. This time, he hit his chip into the middle of the green, rather than attack the pin.
It was the right play, the safe play. It was the kind of play golfers should make on the final day of a tournament they are set to win. However, Tiger has never played that way.
He missed the ensuing putt. Not by much, mind you, but by enough to give you pause coming back, because he did not leave himself a gimme.
I flipped back and forth between the tournament and the hockey game, making sure the Islanders were still winning, which they were. I flipped back in time to see Tiger make that final putt, give a quick fist pump and then raise both hands in the air and bellow out a primal scream of elation.
He had done the seemingly impossible.
It truly was edge-of-your-seat action, at least if you are a golf nut, anyway.
Our managing editor said, before the Masters began, that he thought Tiger had one more major victory left in him. I agreed, begrudgingly. I am not sure he figured it would be this weekend.