A Sunday to Remember
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At the beginning of the week, as he is much of the time, Tiger was the focus of all the media attention. With his game and health in question, no one really knew what to expect. Maybe it was right for all the nay-sayers to doubt him after all he'd been through, and maybe it was wrong of all of his die-hard followers to expect the greatness that we once witnessed, but the one player everyone wanted to see was no doubt Tiger Woods.
Opening the Augusta National with a score of 70 the hopes were high, after all, 3 of his 4 green jackets started off with that very same score ('97, '01,'02). It's funny, only one time has the now 15-time Major champion opened The Masters with a score in 60's - in 2010, so it seemed as if he was right where he wanted to be. At this point he was 4 back of the young guns Bryce DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, who both opened with 66's.
Round 2 was a little more eventful. Weather conditions, low scores, and an "interesting" security incident made the day a little more newsworthy. As for Tiger, it was a vintage round, 16 of 18 greens hit, a solid 6 under, locked in and on the hunt for the leaders. At the top of the leaderboard he'd find Major winners (two of which beat him out in the most recent Majors) Koepka, and Molinari, but at the end of this day he'd only be 1 back.
Before we jump to the weekend, we have to keep in mind Tiger had sole control of The Open Championship just 9 months ago with 9 holes to play. Who did he give way to? Francesco Molinari. Tiger also finished 2nd at the PGA Championship. Who bested him in that tournament? Brooks Koepka. It's important to note this because not only did both men beat Tiger, one came from behind, and one fended him off. Needless to say neither felt as though they couldn't beat him.
Round 3. Round 3 was maybe the biggest round for Tiger, and for the viewing audience. At this point Tiger was playing well and looked as though he would be in contention the rest of the way. However, Tiger has NEVER come from behind to win a Major, whether he was healthy or not, and needless to say after four back surgeries in the last five years, his health was a very big question mark. With that said, when Woods has reached -11 or better after 54 holes he's won. At the end of 54, he was 2 back sitting at -11 heading into Masters' Sunday.
To keep in perspective just how important Tiger is to golf, CBS Sports says the final round of the 2019 Masters was its “highest-rated morning golf broadcast” in 34 years, with a 7.7 overnight rating and 21 household share (it means 21% of all U.S. households with TVs were tuned in). Also, Sunday’s final round tied the highest share of TVs in use for any Masters telecast since 2011. Which is a 17 percent increase from last year’s final round, according to Sports Media Watch. I myself travelled 2 hours to watch at my mothers house because I believe in cord-cutting, sometimes that backfires.
This proves what we already knew before, Tiger Woods is special. At one point he was maybe the most famous athlete on earth, he's gone through the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. Whether you like him or not, April 14th, 2019 will always carry weight.
So as 9:20am rolled around and Tiger teed off trailing the man that ripped the carpet out from under him almost a year ago, everyone was waiting for that epic Tiger moment. What we got instead was maybe the most epic final round in Augusta National history. At one point you had 7 men left with a shot at a green jacket with as little as 5 holes to go.
However, it was more than likely the 12th hole that helped decide the tournaments fate. Molinari, Koepka, Poulter, just as Jordan Spieth did a few years ago, splashed their tee shots into the water. Molinari surrendered the lead for good, Koepka finished one stroke off the lead, and Poulter's strong final round push was ended. As for Tiger, he parred, taking a share of the lead and wouldn't look back.
This tournament was unlike any other I had seen in Masters history. Patrick Cantlay came roaring back to have sole possession of the lead after coming into the weekend 9 strokes back. Jason Day, battling back pain after picking up his daughter, still finished in the top 5. Names like Watson, Fowler, Johnson, Schauffele, were all making big runs. In fact, if Dustin Johnson (and Brooks Koepka for that matter) hit his birdie putt on 18 maybe we're talking about a different type of redemption story. But it was not to be.
After the 12th, Woods went birdie, par, birdie, birdie, par, and as he made his way up to the 18th tee box you could feel the magic. The giant crowds that had followed him all weekend long, the media that had been questioning whether or not this could happen again, his opponents who waited to shake his hand outside the clubhouse, they all felt it too.
Tiger finished the round with a Bogey, just as he did back in 2005, but I doubt anyone will ever remember that. Instead, I believe we'll remember the roar of the crowd, a smile of redemption, and an embrace between a father and his son. I believe that this will be a Sunday to remember.