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Post Masters 2019: Tiger Woods is Back
Created by John Eipper on 04/16/19 4:14 AM

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Masters 2019: Tiger Woods is Back (David Duggan, USA, 04/16/19 4:14 am)

It is sad that Randy Black did not live to see Tiger Woods' resurrection at the 2019 Masters. After an 11-year drought of major titles, Tiger came from behind Sunday to win his fifth green jacket and 15th major title (Masters, PGA--moved to May this year because nobody cared about it when played in August, US Open and British Open). When Randy and I met and rapped some golf in 2013, I don't recall discussing Tiger at WAIS-Adrian, when Tiger was en route to winning "Player of the Year" honors (five championships in 16 tournaments, but no Majors), but I have little doubt that we would have disagreed as to Tiger's claim to be the "Greatest of All Time" (GOAT).

There is some symmetry to this year's Masters win. Twenty-two years ago, when Tiger was 21 years old and in his first year on the pro tour, he won his first major title, lapping the field with a 12-stroke victory, and shooting a record 18 under the 288 four-round par at hallowed Augusta National, which at the time had few black and no women members. Now balding, and having had more surgeries than a Boston Marathon bombing survivor, Augusta National has both black and women members (Lynn Swann, Condoleezza Rice--that's not a typo), and Tiger needed to come from two-down to Francesco Molinari after 54 holes to edge Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and someone named Xander Schauffele by one stroke. Being in the final grouping (to avoid predicted afternoon rain, the tournament started at 8 am Eastern on Sunday, rather than in the afternoon, and had threesomes rather than the usual pairings) undoubtedly helped as Tiger knew what he needed to do to win.

It is said that the Masters isn't won until the back nine on Sunday, when you get the Amen corner (holes 11, 12 and 13, the furthest points from the clubhouse, a 505 yard par-4, a 155 par-3, and a 510 par 5, respectively). These distances by the way are what the pros play; members play from considerably forward tees. Rae's Creek runs adjacent to or through these holes, and #12 is particularly diabolical. At the lowest part of the course (which has massive elevation changes for this Midwesterner), with winds that whip up over the trees, the hole features a long, narrow green at right angles to ball flight. Many a ball has ended up in the Creek, and with that, a contender's chances have sunk as well. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, booked a quadruple-bogey 7 at 12 the year later, dumping two in the water in a meltdown of epic proportions. By the way, the phrase "Amen Corner" is attributed to the great sportswriter, Herbert Warren Wind, who plucked it from a jazz recording, "Shouting in the Amen Corner."

Tiger did not take the lead until the par-5 15th hole, which he birdied. He held on in the last 3 holes while others self-destructed. An 18th-hole bogey 5 did not destroy his chances as by then Molinari's, Johnson's and Koepka's scores were out of reach to win. After he sunk his 14" putt for the victory, booking his first-come-from-behind-victory in a Major, he gave a muted Tiger-triumphant salute, like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, both arms upraised to the gods.

I'm not going to weigh in on whether Tiger is the greatest of all time. So far as I can tell, however, he will be the fourth golfer to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by his fellow world-class p-hound, Donald J. Trump (Palmer, Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford preceded him), but I don't think that any of the other awarders had played with the awardees (GWB for Palmer & Nicklaus, Obama for Sifford). Regardless of what you think about Tiger's off-the-course activities, or his interlocked grip, he has been the best for 20 years, but when your competition is a bunch of stiffs, in my humble opinion, Tiger has a lot more winning to do to get my vote.

And I'll let others weigh in on whether they accept Brit Hume's suggestion that Tiger needs to embrace Christianity in order to understand redemption. Buddhism preaches inner peace, and I bet that Tiger found that on the 18th green at Augusta National.

JE comments:  David Duggan gets my vote as Greatest Sportswriter of All Time.  During the wedding weekend in Houston, I saw Tiger on TV and thought I was in a time warp.  We are in need of a neologism:  Out of the Woods?  Tigeraissance?  No hits for that one yet on Google, so I just added one.

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