Jaw-dropping sport moments of 2019: Tiger Woods roars back to win Masters

Jaw-dropping sport moments of 2019: Tiger Woods roars back to win Masters
Video tiger woods 2019 masters tournament

It should be no act of sacrilege to suggest victory at the 2019 Masters was not the most remarkable in Tiger Woods’s celebrated career. This is a golfer who won at Augusta National by a dozen shots as a 21-year-old, who claimed the US Open by a margin of 15 in 2000 and who prevailed in the same major eight years later despite playing with a broken leg. Woods seemed to view unprecedented feats as matador’s capes.

But none of this should temper the significance of Woods’s latest major triumph and 15th in total. Nor did it. His victory at Augusta reverberated way beyond sport. A sportsman once so dominant had been reduced firmly to the past tense. His slide towards oblivion appeared terminal. An athlete formerly so flawless had been dragged – partly by himself – to the depths of personal and physical despair. As Woods converted the final putt, his mother and children standing by to join in the celebrations, the ultimate redemption tale was complete.

The notion of Woods as a darling of American golf fans would have been fanciful a decade ago. At that point he was in the grip of scandal after news of a series of extramarital affairs flooded into the public domain. Woods issued a now infamous public apology in February 2010 but the damage, including commercially, had been done. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” he said. Whereas history suggested Woods’s golf clubs could switch the narrative attached to him, his on-course performances regressed.

Woods did win tournaments in 2012 and 2013 but none of the four he covets most. With his back causing increasing degrees of problems, multiple surgeries occurred. Woods closed out 2018 with success at the Tour Championship in Atlanta amid much fanfare but there was no real indication of what might happen next.

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More intriguing is that people willed it to. If individual golf is supposedly a non-tribal environment, the swell of support for Woods over the weekend of this Masters supplied the perfect counter-theory. Maybe the public decided Woods had suffered enough. Perhaps sports fans want the form of the greatest performers to be infinite. It is possible Woods, now far more personable than at his dominant peak, has switched attitudes with his own approach.

The lowest ebb was 23 months earlier. Woods – slumped, slurring and disoriented – was arrested in Florida on a driving under the influence charge. He blamed self-medication, with the intense scale of sadness for his plight notable. This may well have proved a useful line in the sand; Woods’s fortunes and quality of life sharply improved. That is poetically so, given that it was such a high-profile and embarrassing incident for an individual who has pursued privacy for decades.

Woods poses in the Green Jacket after completing a glorious victory at Augusta National. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, two players from an era inspired by Woods, led the Masters after day one. There was a five-way tie at the halfway point but Woods had, by that Friday evening, edged to within one of the quintet. The 44-year-old earned a spot in Sunday’s final grouping after a third round of 67 but to prevail he would have to break an unwanted record. Never before had Woods won a major from the position of trailing with 18 holes to play. Francesco Molinari took a two-shot lead into day four.

Molinari, the 2018 Open champion, was typically stoic until he found Rae’s Creek from the 12th tee. Augusta held its breath; this was Woods’s moment. As the Italian folded over the closing stretch, Woods completed a round of 70 to win by a shot. Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele do not play top-level golf to finish second but in this instance one had the impression they were not overly upset.

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“My kids got to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship,” Woods said. “I hope that’s something they will never forget.” They will not and they are not alone. Woods’s major No 15 preceded sudden chatter about whether or not he could match Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18. Not long before, you would have been taken to the clubhouse in a straitjacket if engaging in the same.

Even the environment was wholly appropriate. Augusta National’s shameful association with racism for so long meant Woods, now a five-times champion there, subtly laughed in the face of historical discrimination. That comfortable 1997 victory was his first in a major.

Two decades later the scale of his pain as he attended the annual Masters champions’ dinner – he was unable to compete – shocked onlookers. “I could barely walk, I couldn’t sit,” he said. “I couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything.”

The same evening he confided in some he thought he was “done” as a competitor. The winning of another major would always have grabbed global attention but performing this feat in Georgia, at the one of the four tournaments that never shifts venue, added sparkle to the story.

Woods’s professional exploits of 2019 concluded by captaining the USA to retaining the Presidents Cup. Footage of the celebrating American contingent on a coach as they left Royal Melbourne emerged. “No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions … of the world.” Woods sang with glass aloft. In truth, this was a stretch. But eight months earlier? He had scaled the mountain of all mountains.

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