Holy Bleep, Tiger Woods Did It
Golf’s biggest name delivers a victory for the ages in Augusta. Now what?
By Jason Gay
All that’s really left now in sports is for the Cleveland Browns to win the Super Bowl.
Because Tiger Woods did it.
Maybe you had a strong opinion about whether or not he’d ever do it again.
Tiger Woods, win another major? It tended to be a polarizing topic.
Absolutely yes, said the believers. He’s Tiger Woods, you dingbats.
Absolutely not, said the skeptics. Have you dingbats watched Tiger Woods play golf for the past decade?
It took 11 years to answer one of the biggest, most lingering questions in sports. Tiger Woods, now 43 years old, won the Masters on Sunday—his 15th major tournament victory and his first since June 2008, when Americans still answered their cell phones, and “Game of Thrones” was a bunch of books.
Do you remember what the world was like in 2008? Humans traveled by covered wagons called Hummers. We subscribed to products like cable TV and even this hilarious contraption called a print newspaper. The President of the United States was John Adams. A fellow named Tom Brady was the quarterback of the New England Patriots.
A lot happened to Tiger Woods after that. Yes: that is putting it mildly. Let’s not relive it all here. There were self-inflicted humiliations in his personal life. In his profession, he struggled to find equilibrium. Woods was hurt. A lot. Many times it appeared as if his body had quit—and we wondered if Woods should follow it out the door.
We grew used to another Woods: still breathtakingly famous, but flawed and seemingly broken. He became hard to watch. Woods was a reminder of how life could turn, how imperfection and age could make anyone mortal.
It also reminded everyone of this: Golf is hard. It’s so, so hard. Even for Tiger Woods.
Now he’s turned back the clock. Woods won this Masters in a red mock turtleneck that conjured up nostalgia from all those youthful victories past. He beat the demons and the broad-shouldered millennials who grew up with his poster on the wall. He won the tournament from behind on the last day, the first time he’s ever done that at a major.
And because bad weather pushed up the start in Augusta, Woods also did it before 2:30 p.m. ET, which meant everyone had the rest of Sunday to spend time with their kids, or their pets, or their blackjack dealers, or whatever you’re up to on weekends these days.
Thanks a lot, Tiger—what was I supposed to do, talk to my family?
Woods was joyous in victory, and it was fun to see. As a youngster, he played like a conqueror, with a dominance so thundering that his championships felt routine. He could play brilliantly, but he could also leave you cold.
There was no coldness to this win. Woods exploded with happiness. People thought he might weep, but he just seemed so flipping thrilled at it all. He radiated glee. There were long hugs for his mother and his children. You didn’t need to know the man to realize this is a different man, and a new kind of win. How could it not be?
I want to be careful here. Masters weekend can get really syrupy with sentimentality; all that sotto voce ooziness from Jim Nantz starts to feel like a wedding toast that never ends. Augusta National is a weird joint. But if that scene on 18 didn’t move you, I got nothing for ya, pal.
Now it’s as if the planets have realigned. One of earth’s great sports figures has reassumed his place. Everyone’s going into work Monday talking about Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. Well, that, and the “Game of Thrones” premiere.
Life’s a little more exciting when Tiger’s rolling, is it not?
Here’s the great thing: All that old Tiger Woods history, it comes to life again. This win breathes new energy into a spectacular but faded career. It no longer feels like dusting off the books to talk about When Tiger Woods Was Great, about what a thrilling and transformative figure he can be.
After all, there was a big chunk of time in which Tiger Woods felt the biggest sports figure on the planet. This weekend, it felt like that again.
So get ready. Get ready for the hype of the PGA Championship (at Bethpage Black, where Tiger won the 2002 U.S. Open), the U.S. Open (at Pebble Beach, where Tiger’s won) and the British Open. Fire up the “Can Tiger win 18 and tie Jack Nicklaus?” debates. Nicklaus, gone fishing in the Caribbean, released a classy statement congratulating Woods. But Jack must be also thinking: Aw geez, are we really gonna do this whole discussion again?
Yes, we are. The big question in sports has been answered. Tiger Woods is your 2019 Masters champ.
It’s onto you, Cleveland Browns. You’re what’s left on the clock. Get busy.