I have been a sports fan all my life. Athletic competition, in all its forms, represents an incredible escape from the realm of bad things. And in any sports fan’s life, there are a few key events that one can always look back on as moments whose drama and intrigue transcend the human experience.
On Sunday, we all bore witness to the culmination of perhaps the greatest comeback in the history of professional sports. Eldrick Tont Woods, scarred by scandal and multiple back surgeries, won the most prestigious tournament in golf fewer than two years after considering retirement.
And every second of it was electric.
Nearly 10 years ago, Tiger’s name became synonymous with shame and disgrace. Off the course, the media put his infidelity under a microscope in headline after headline and his divorce became public gossip, all while injuries, age and fatigue began to limit his once-invincible play on the course.
In a matter of months, Tiger’s goal changed drastically: from chasing Jack Nicklaus’ famous 18-major record to swinging a golf club again — perhaps even just walking normally again. Few falls from grace have ever been so dramatic.
It’s the sort of thing that most people would not come back from.
When Tiger started to make noise in 2018, many began to believe what was once unthinkable: that the man who once churned out victories like a toy manufacturer might actually be able to win again. He posted a top-6 finish at The Open Championship at Carnoustie, then was runner-up to Brooks Koepka at the PGA Championship.
But heading into Augusta last week, while many were hopeful that the famous Green Jacket would be placed over Tiger’s Sunday-red turtleneck once again, few actually gave him any chance.
Still, from the moment he teed off on Thursday morning, it was clear who the patrons were rooting for. The starter didn’t even announce Tiger’s name. He didn’t have to.
And with the doubters looking on, Tiger put on a memorable performance across 72 holes and one by one, the doubters joined the cheering fans as it became more and more likely early Sunday afternoon that Tiger would win.
As Tiger made his final stroll up the 18th fairway at Augusta National on Sunday, the patrons — a few thousand or so — let him hear a bit more of what he had been hearing all tournament long. The cheers and applause rained down on Tiger as he prepared to take his final strokes and secure his victory — his first at The Masters since 2005 and first in a major since 2008.
And for the first time all tournament long, when the winning putt had fallen, Tiger finally cracked a smile after a stoic four-round 275, one stroke better than his 2005 win.
The comeback was complete; the moment was unforgettable. And we are all lucky to have been a part of it.