AUGUSTA, Ga. – Previous Masters winners met in the champions' locker room because they understood what they were seeing and knew they had to do something special for Eldrick Tiger Woods. Bernhard Langer, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott … all realized that they could not just close their lockers, say goodbye to them and jump in their luxurious cars to return to their privileged lives.
Langer, 61, was the elder of the group, the leader of the band. The former winners showered after their rounds, shared a drink and watched Woods play the 72nd hole on television.
"We heard great joy," said Langer, pointing to the end of one of the best sports stories in the United States ever told. "And we all said: Let's put on our jackets and let's go down and congratulate. And that's what we did."
Langer played in the 1986 Masters. Jack Nicklaus had won his sixth green jacket and his 18th and final race at the age of 46. Now here was Woods' No. 5 jacket, 43, and No. 15 major, after a 14-year drought for the Masters and a decade. more for the elderly. Langer would not rate one feat superior to the other, but he did not need to. The two-time Masters champion made sure he wore his green jacket when he shook Woods' hand.
"This is a very special moment in the history of the game of golf, Augusta and the Tiger himself," said Langer.
No one who was here on this surreal Sunday will ever forget the way the earth moved or the way the roars rose above the towering pines. Nobody will ever forget the scene where Woods' son, Charlie, falling into his father's arms, like Tiger, fell into his father's arms after his record of triumphs and toppled a victory at age 21 in 1997. Woods he had said his children I thought of him as a "YouTube golfer", as a dynastic force in the highlights of the Internet and video games, but as something completely different in the flesh.
Back injuries and ineffective surgeries had left Woods in prison for debilitating pain. He could not walk, nor sit, nor lie down, nor get out of bed. The epidural and cortisone shots did not provide any relief.
"They only knew that golf caused me a lot of pain," Woods said of his children.
Physically and emotionally
Sam (his daughter) and Charlie were there in Carnoustie last summer when his father, who miraculously contended after desperate spinal fusion surgery saved his career, lost his Sunday leadership in the Open Championship and lost his man-to-man duel with Francesco. Molinari, who started the final round of this Masters with a two-shot lead.
"I was not going to let that happen to them twice," Tiger said.
Woods was also not willing to let Brooks Koepka, another serious challenger from Masters, hit him like he did in the PGA Championship. A blind believer in his abilities, Tiger woke up in the darkness of the night to prepare his altered body for a battle that would begin at 9:20 a.m. because the Augusta National elders wanted to overcome the predicted storms.
Woods refused to let anyone or anything rain in his parade. He suffered consecutive bogeys in the numbers 4 and 5 to fall three behind Molinari. Appeared destined to another big mistake nearby. But Tiger's caddy, Joe LaCava, started cursing his player. Then, Woods went into a bathroom and cursed himself before a new man emerged.
LaCava had told her before: "Never lose tension, but let go, do not carry the weight of the world on your shoulders".
Twenty-two years after hugging his father to celebrate his first Masters victory, Tiger Woods hugs his children after winning his fifth title at Augusta.
Woods remained in balance for the rest of this indelible journey. He waited for Molinari, usually a man of steel, to break under the pressure. And crack Molinari probably did it on the 12th hole, where he sent his ball to the stream. The tigers who watched from the tee box started screaming and shouting at each other. The whole ball game had changed, and when the rain began to fall and the green and white umbrellas began to appear all over the field, those dizzy fanatics marched through the trees as if the sun had risen and the skies were perfectly blue. .
Molinari cut a tree and found the water again on the 15th, where Woods safely landed his second five-iron shot in par 5. Tiger's first memory of the Masters was when Nicklaus celebrated his 4 iron shot in the same hole. 33 years ago
"I've never seen anyone celebrate an iron shot on a green before," Woods said.
He also remembered Nicklaus wrapping an arm around his son and caddy, Jackie Jr., as they walked triumphantly off the 18th green.
Woods was heading to his own father-son moment after his little bird on the 15th gave him the lead with 13 feet under. But first, Tiger had to hit the type of shot on the 16th that Nicklaus hit in the '86. On the tee box, with Molinari staring at his feet after his disastrous double bogey, Woods turned to his caddy.
"Do you like a cut 7-[iron] Or a good 8? "I ask.
"It's just a good 8," LaCava replied. "You know, what are you trying to be nice to me?"
Woods simply showed the same arrogance as a 46-year-old Nicklaus showed his caddy with his tee shot midway through the flight on the 16th.
"Be right," Jackie yelled that day. "It is," his father said as he bent to pick up his shirt.
Jackie was on the Augusta National grounds on Sunday when Tiger really hit his shot a little bit closer than Nicklaus. As they approached the green, Woods asked LaCava to take a look at his launch line. "Have a look?" The caddy said in disbelief. "It's a foot and a half."
"Left center," replied Tigre.
"Go for it," LaCava said.
Woods went for the Masters in a way he has not done since his last victory in 2005, when he made the distinctive shot of his career, his magical and mysterious chip-in, on that 16th hole.
Tiger Woods reflects on what it means to win his fifth Masters, and says it is a tournament he will never forget.
The 18th walk represented nothing less than the golf response to a religious experience. The people who had attended dozens of Masters could not remember that the crowd was so deep in the street and around the green. There seemed to be no man, woman or child in the house who was encouraging anyone but the bald terminator in red.
Woods knew that the bogey would still win, but he also knew that Arnold Palmer doubled once the 72nd hole to lose the Masters. Tiger was not willing to throw an Arnie. When he stood over the tap-in that he will repeat in his mind a billion times just this week, Woods told himself, "Come on, keep it together, stay focused, make a commitment."
The gallery that had been as quiet as an empty church at midnight, each time Woods was preparing to shoot, exploded when the final putt fell and the winner pumped his fist and emphatically threw his arms into the air while letting out a liberating scream of his fingers . Tiger had beaten the two men who had denied him big victories last year, Molinari and Koepka, and could not care less. She just wanted to hug her mother, Kultida, who had pbaded the final round in the clubhouse screaming deliriously at her son's image on television. Tigre just wanted to hug his two children.
With the colors of his father, the red shirt and the black cap (although, of course, Charlie's was turned back), Tiger's son ran to his father behind the green number 18. Tigre picked him up in a hug bear. Neither father nor son wanted to let go. Fans soon sang Tiger's name as he made his way to the annotation room, cutting off what Koepka called "a monsoon of people." Tigre thanked them when he arrived and slapped his hands. He was congratulated at the end of that walk by Langer and other former champions with their green jackets, and by Koepka and his young gun mates who grew up idolizing him.
"It was the best thing to see all the players say hello," said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. "They all competed against Tiger, and they all lost against him."
Tiger Woods puts on the green jacket and raises the Masters trophy for the fifth time in his career.
Before Woods made his way in his green jacket, from the Butler Cabin ceremony to the practice green, where he lifted the trophy and grinned widely at the cameras, his lifelong badistant, Rob McNamara, stood in front of the clubhouse and cited victory last fall on East Lake. As critical as the day developed.
"Mentally," said McNamara, "winning the Tour Championship was everything."
When Woods left the photo shoot on the green and headed for a gray van, the fans chased him and almost dodged last year's champion, Patrick Reed, who was ignored as he made his way through traffic. In the parking lot, wearing a Saquon Barkley T-shirt under his Masters suit, LaCava was sitting in the cargo area of a black SUV with the yellow flag of the 18th hole hidden behind him. The caddy did not want to talk about Woods just like a renewed champion; I wanted to talk about him as a renewed man too.
"He's a high-level people, he's talking to people, he's signing autographs," LaCava said. "It's much more friendly with the fans, which I think is amazing, it's great with the kids, talking to the guys in groups more … and everyone who's out there is looking for it." How many boys did they see sitting there waiting for him? 18? "
Much. And that's why this was not the time to say that Tiger's reappearance was bigger (or not) than Ben Hogan's comeback after an almost fatal accident, or that Tiger's 2019 Masters was better (or not) than the 1986 Masters of Jack.
This was the time to measure Woods, the man, against his youngest self. Tiger sent many people through hell, especially his ex-wife, and he could have seriously hurt himself, or someone else, the night of his arrest for DUI in 2017. Woods told everyone that he had ended up as golfer two years ago, and then survived what he called "some really dark and dark times."
So it was a Masters winner much easier to celebrate this time. Woods won his 15th main title, one more than his father predicted he would recover in his son's amateur days. Tiger heard his father's voice in a pair of greens on Sunday.
"Just put yourself in the picture," Earl would say, and his son did as he was told.
Before Tiger's sons were expelled from the club in that black Mercedes at 4:16 p.m., the LaCava flagstick was loaded into another SUV that was probably waiting for Woods. Tiger would leave Augusta National with a memory and a memory that could last three lives.
Charlie and Sam watched their fathers win, Tiger said, "just like my parents saw me win here." Woods' children and a whole generation of boys and girls discovered something on Sunday that they never really knew.
Eldrick Tiger Woods is not a YouTube highlight, or a video game superhero. He is a very real golfer, the kind we will never see again.