I still remember vividly the image of a young Tiger Woods in 1997 when he won the US Masters in the fabled Augusta course. After sinking the last putt and pumping his fist in the air, Tiger, then 21 years old, ran up to a corner to give his old man Earl a bear hug. It was a scene of a son running up to his dad after a triumphant performance.
Then I remembered back in 1985 when, as a young campus journalist, I also ran up to my father in the gallery after I got my medal in the national sportswriting contest.
Oh, those scenes of triumph shared by sons and fathers.
In my early years in sportswriting, I tracked Tiger’s amateur career from his days in Stanford winning the US Amateurs against Joel Kribel. It was Kribel whom I was able to cover in the 1996 World Amateurs in Southwoods. Unluckily for me, Tiger was no longer around in that tournament. He had turned pro that year and made that epic win in Augusta the following year.
Early Monday morning, I watched as a 43-year old Tiger made a triumphant reprise of his four previous Masters win, the last coming in 2005. Unlike his fist-pumping celebratory roar in 1997, this one came with a bit of delay. After sinking his last putt on the 18th, it took a second or two before it finally sunk in on Tiger. He celebrated emotionally with arms raised, head up in heavens, as if to say: “I made it back.”
No, make it. “I made it home.”
Then he walked off the 18th green to the very same corner he hugged his late dad. This time, to the waiting arms of his children Sam and Charlie.
It was a scene reversed. A father coming home after a triumphant performance to his daughter and son.
It was an incredible moment, 22 years in the making. My heart crumbled. My eyes welled watching.
There is a significant connection between the two scenes in 1997 and 2019.
In the first, it was Tiger telling his father Earl, who saw him grow in the game of golf from the day he picked up a club, he has done it.
In this latest, it was Tiger showing his children, who never saw him win a tournament in person, he could still do it.
He has come full circle. From a son to his father, to a father to his kids.
Woods father Earl died in 2006 after a battle with cancer.
Now he hopes his kids are proud of him now that they had seen him win in not just on videos.
Prior to this one, most people doubted Tiger would ever win a major championship again. Let alone the Masters. After an amazing run that saw him rack up 14 titles and closing in on the 18 of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger’s career turned around. He had marital problems, infidelity issues, divorce, crashed his car, was arrested for drunk driving, had his knee reconstructed, and had a make-or-break back surgery. This is not to mention caddie and swing changes.
Perhaps, I am just one of the few who stuck with Tiger. In the last 10 years, I had no one rooting for as a golf fan although I had some appreciation of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day’s games. But there was nothing like Tiger to replace in my book.
The doubting Thomases have been silenced.
On Monday, Tiger delivered us the moment we have been praying for. Masters no.5, Majors no.15. Tiger is now just three back in the most number of majors behind the legendary Nicklaus (18). Likewise, it earned him the fifth green jacket of his illustrious career, which pushes him past Arnold Palmer and leaves him just one behind Nicklaus (6). Tiger now has 81 career PGA Tour wins and sits just one win behind Sam Snead’s record of 82.
He did it methodically. Starting the first round with a 70. Why in all his Masters victory, Tiger started with a 70, baffles me. Second round he started to get aggressive. Third round was the imminent signs of a Sunday to look forward to. Then came the deliverance. Precise, patient, planned. He even ended with an uncharacteristic bogey, but the maturity in his game is very much evident.
Like Tiger, how many of us thirst for a Tiger victory? Now, we have been quenched.
Pardon the biblical reference, but this father-son moment just gets into me deeply. In the week we celebrate Lent, this is by far the biggest story of resurrection in sports.
Like the Son triumphantly returning to the Father after dying in the cross.