Tiger Woods’ memories of 2019 Masters made as much off the course as on it
One of Tiger Woods’ favorite parts of what he calls his “magical week” at the 2019 Masters Tournament was the public’s response to his victory, his fifth at Augusta National Golf Club but first since 2005.
“Seeing the amount of reactions and the amount of people that were riveted by the Masters and … the amount of emotion that people were showing. What blew my mind is I didn't think that that many people were going to be moved that way,” Woods said in a conference call with reporters in late February.
It was a victory Woods never thought would happen – two years earlier he could barely walk because of chronic back problems. At the 2017 Champions Dinner, he told Gary Player he thought his career might be over.
In the aftermath of the win, Woods watched videos posted from such places as airports and restaurants during his back-nine rally. Down two shots with seven holes to go, Woods played the remaining holes in 1-under 35 (with a bogey on No. 18) and finished with 2-under-par 70 to win by a shot.
In the final round, Woods wore a red mock turtleneck shirt just as he’d done in his, Woods played the remaining holes in 1-under 35 (with a bogey on No. 18) and finished with 2-under-par 70 to win by a shot.
In the final round, Woods wore a red mock turtleneck shirt just as he’d done in his last Masters’ win, 14 years earlier. And at age 43, he became the second-oldest player to win the Masters.
A large part of the interest in Woods’ victory was because it capped a remarkable comeback from personal problems -- a 2009 sex scandal, a divorce a year later and a 2017 arrest for driving under the influence, in which when he had five different drugs in his system, mainly painkillers -- and injuries: four knee operations and four back surgeries, including spinal fusion surgery in 2017.
He was also trying to win his first major championship after trailing through 54 holes, which added even more fan interest.
“I was more surprised at the amount of videos of people watching the Masters and seeing their reaction when I hit the shot on 16 or when I made the putt.”
That birdie putt on the par-3 16th, from 2 feet, gave Woods a two-shot lead. He would par No. 17 and bogey No. 18 to finish at 13-under 275 and beat Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Dustin Johnson by a shot.
“I'm on the other side of it, so I'm out there hitting the shot,” Woods said. “I was just trying to win the event and do something I've never done before, which is come-from-behind in a major championship and win.”
Woods did not lead the 2019 Masters until he made birdie on the 69th hole (No. 15 in the final round). He trailed by four shots after an opening 70, was one behind after a second-round 68 and trailed by two after 67 in the third round. Tee times for the final round were moved up in an effort to beat anticipated severe afternoon weather. The tournament ended around 2:30 p.m., well before the usual 7 p.m. finish, and weather was not a factor.
It was Woods’ 15th major, and first in nearly 11 years, putting him three behind the record held by Jack Nicklaus. It was also his 81st PGA Tour victory. Woods would win again in Japan in October to tie Sam Snead’s record at 82.
About a month after winning the Masters, Woods was on the outside looking in this time, just as the sports world had been on that Masters Sunday.
He and his caddie, Joe LaCava, sat down and watched the final-round telecast.
“We were talking back and forth, and reliving every bit of it,” Woods said. “Because we have a certain viewpoint of how we look at it, the shots, the numbers, the situations, and people are making birdies and all the different scenarios were playing out in our heads. But it was kind of fun to sit back and listen to the broadcast and hear their take on it.”
It was also Woods’ first chance to see exactly what his rivals were doing in front of him that day. Woods was in the final pairing of the day with third-round leader Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau.
“We hear the roars,” Woods said. “We hear the birdies that were being made. We have the signage that people pop up and what they have done; we just don't know how they did it. That was kind of the fun part is reliving that from a totally different perspective than what we did.”
When Woods won his fourth Masters in 2005, he knew it would be the last one his ailing father Earl would attend. Earl died May 3, 2006.
Woods wanted to win the 2019 Masters so his children -- daughter Sam and son Charlie -- could enjoying seeing him win a major championship. Sam, 11 at the time, had just turned 1 when Woods won his last major, at the 2008 U.S. Open. Charlie, 10 at this time last year, was born in February 2009.
In July 2018, Woods’ children had been at the British Open at Carnoustie when he came up short after taking the lead into the back nine in the final round. He would make double bogey on No. 11 and bogey on No. 12 en route to 71 and a tie for sixth, three behind the winner, Molinari.
That was the last time Woods’ children attended a major championship before the 2019 Masters.
“I think what made it so special is that they saw me fail the year before at the British Open,” Woods said. “I had gotten the lead there and ended up losing to Francesco.
“So to have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and now to be a part of it and when I did get it done, I think it’s two memories that they will never forget; and the embraces and the hugs and the excitement, because they know how I felt and what it felt like when I lost at Carnoustie,” he said. “To have the complete flip with them in less than a year, it was very fresh in their minds.”
As the current Masters champion, Woods was allowed to take his green jacket with him when he left for his Jupiter, Fla., home and keep it for a year. He must return it before the 2020 Masters. It made for an interesting flight home with his kids – and the green jacket.
“Just watching them fight over the green jacket on the airplane was pretty funny,” Woods said. “ ’I want to wear it; no, I want to wear it,’ and that’s something I certainly will never forget.”
There was some question if his children would make it to the final round. If Sam’s soccer team had not lost on Saturday (the third round of the Masters), she would have been in the state cup final on Sunday and would not have come. Neither would Charlie.
Woods remembers Charlie saying “no way, unless my sister comes.”
“To have them there was so special because to us in our family, Augusta has meant so much,” Woods said. “My dad was there when I won my first one (1997) and my mom (Kultida) has been there for each and every one. So to be able to share it with the next generation, to share it with my kids, was just surreal. To have them see their Pops win, just like my Pops saw me win here, was pretty special.”