By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
When Tiger Woods walked down the 18th fairway to win his first Masters title in 1997 he had a 12 stroke lead and was in the process of taming the famed Augusta National Golf Club with a record setting -18 performance that meant as much socially as it did for sports.
On April 14, when Tiger took the long walk to the 18th green, all he had to do was stay out of trouble and the victory would mean so much more. Woods won his fifth green jacket with a bogey after shooting a final round 68 but the triumph seemed to have more impact than when he broke the major championship color barrier 22 years earlier.
Tiger made golf cool again by winning the Masters again. In a dramatically compelling brunch round of golf, Woods won back the heart of America for a second time. The intangibles of this round were so moving that President Trump took to Twitter and announced that he would be giving Woods the Congressional Medal of Freedom.
There aren’t too many people on the planet right now who can induce a positive tweet from Trump and bring the masses to watch a rich man’s game on TV opposite the NBA playoffs.
His round wasn’t reckless as he relied on his experience to track down the leader Francesco Molinari in the final round of a major championship for the first time in his career. He managed the course with the precision of a surgeon and a focus reminiscent of his dominant first Master’s win before his body and his character failed him.
Woods didn’t take unnecessary chances. When he was unsure of whether to play conservative or aggressive he backed off. If there was a choice whether to play a long club for distance or shorter club for control he made the sacrifice and stayed out of trouble. If Tiger had carried himself like that off the course in the past, there would have never been a comeback moment like this.
He previously never won a major when trailing after 54 holes but he seemed to relish being the hunter for a change. His presence always separated him from the pack in his career. He previously could beat players by merely being there. However, his vulnerability finally made him human which only added to the drama on this championship.
Woods played with no pressure but he knew exactly when to apply it. He managed the game through the first 11 holes and once the challengers showed their cracks he crushed them. Three of the four players who were in contention hit shots into the water at the 12th hole at Rae’s Creek and made double bogey. He took the momentum at that moment by making arguably the most significant par in his career.
“There were so many different scenarios that could have transpired on that back nine,” said Woods. “There were so many guys that had a chance to win. Leader board was absolutely packed and everyone was playing well. You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there. Now you know why I’m balding. This stuff is hard.”
Birdies at holes 13 and 15 gave him the lead for good as he came to the 16th. After Molinari succumbed in the water with his third shot at 15 and double bogeyed, the comeback coronation for Woods began.
After wondering if he would ever play again 18 months ago, Woods is the man once again. He appears ready to tee off on a run at becoming the greatest player the game has ever seen.