As Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green moments after winning the 2019 Masters and capping one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, he flipped his putter to the ground in a manner that would have made Yasiel Puig proud. Seconds later Woods lifted and embraced his 10-year-old son, Charlie, bringing back memories of the emotional embrace that a young Tiger and his father, Earl Woods, shared at Augusta after winning his first Masters 22 years ago.
With Woods ending an 11-year drought in major championships — and earning his first win in Augusta since his three-stroke win in a playoff in 2005 — the indelible images from his 15th career major win were numerous:
- Woods’ gum-popping plea for his shot to be right on the 16th-hole par three, just moments before his ball landed well past the flag, then found a slope that carried it within 2 feet of the pin — and an easy birdie.
- The roar of the crowd as Woods, with a two-shot lead, strode down the 18th fairway.
- The embraces Woods shared with the rest of his family after releasing his grip on his son.
- The top golfers in the game — many who began their careers after Woods won his last major championship in 2008 — sticking around outside the clubhouse to show their appreciation for the player who put them in position to make the amount of money that golfers, 20 years ago, could have never imagined.
As a nation stood witness to the golf brilliance of the man who is perhaps the biggest unifier in this country today (who else can get the president, Candace Owens, Barack Obama, Serena Williams and Stephen Curry on the same page?), let’s give credit to Woods for overcoming a decade of personal and physical challenges that had haters celebrating his every mistake.
The physical issues — the multiple spinal surgeries, the stress fracture and torn ACL he combated to win the 2008 U.S. Open, the MCL sprain and multiple Achilles injuries — sidelined Woods for extended periods of time and even had him doubting whether he’d play golf again. “It was not a fun time,” Woods said last year of his 2017 recovery from a back operation. “Tough couple of years there.”
But the personal issues, which surfaced after reports in 2009 that Woods cheated on his wife, were likely bigger challenges for the golfer than any surgical procedure. In an instant Woods went from one of the most beloved golfers on the planet to living the life of a leper.
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Late-night talk show hosts clowned him. Tabloids and magazines splashed Woods across their front pages in an attempt to boost sales. Jesper Parnevik, who introduced Woods to his wife, said, “We probably thought he was a better guy than he is.”
Some of Woods’ lucrative endorsement deals were snatched. And with the universal love for him fading, Woods —a self-proclaimed Cablinasian — was being judged by the way society viewed him.
As a black man.
Do you think any other golfer who was in the midst of marital issues would have had to step up to a microphone to apologize for his actions in his marriage, and admit to having gone to rehab for sex addiction?
Do you think Billy Payne, the then-chairman of Augusta National — a golf course that barred black golfers until Lee Elder played in the Masters in 1975 — would have scolded any other golfer for having relations outside a marriage the way he lashed out at Woods?
By the way, Payne, who retired in late 2017, was radio silent in 2014 when Phil Mickelson was implicated in an insider trading scandal.
Fair or unfair, Woods became an easy target. His 2017 DUI arrest (lab tests revealed he was under the influence of painkillers, sleep drugs and an ingredient active in marijuana) fueled more criticism. And that increased the number of doubters. Some of the same media people who praised the win by Woods on Sunday have been captured on tape claiming he’d never be victorious or competitive again.
(Note: Tiger Woods was not really looking at video of the criticism of him.)
With Tiger about to win #TheMasters it’s important to bring this video back.