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Tiger Woods shocked the world with his 15th major at 2019 Masters

Tiger Woods poses with the Masters trophy and

Tiger Woods poses with the Masters trophy and green jacket after winning the tournament in Augusta, Ga., on April 14, 2019. Credit: Kyodo

There was no Masters this April, but the roar from the 18th hole on Sunday of 2019 must still be echoing through the Georgia pines.

It was last April 14, to be exact, and Tiger Woods had just tapped in from a foot and a half for bogey to win his fifth green jacket and first since 2005. He spread his arms and howled at the sky, having accomplished something that for many years never seemed possible, not even to him.

The gallery — the “patrons,” as they are known at Augusta National — joined in the earsplitting hallelujah chorus, chanting “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” Walking on air off the back of the 18th, he held long, passionate embraces with his son, Charlie, his mother, Kultida, his daughter, Sam, and his girlfriend, Erica Herman.

More embraces and hand slaps followed until he arrived near the clubhouse, where players such as Justin Thomas, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka waited to offer their own emotional congratulations.

With the coronavirus pandemic having forced the Masters to postpone to Nov. 12-15, there will be no follow-up to those electric scenes this week. But for the golf fan, the memories have to be indelible, the sense of accomplishment palpable. In the extraordinary career of Tiger Woods, there was an extra extra in front of ordinary.

“Just unreal, to be honest with you” were the first words he uttered at his Sunday evening media conference. “You know, just the whole tournament has meant so much to me over the years. Coming here in ’95 for the first time and being able to play as an amateur; winning in ’97, and then come full circle, 22 years later, to be able to do it again, and just the way it all transpired today.”

Especially poignant was having his children see him win a major championship for the first time. It was something he hadn’t done since the 2008 U.S. Open, when Sam was just a year old and Charlie hadn’t yet been born.

“To have both Sam and Charlie here, they were there at the British Open last year when I had the lead on that back nine and I made a few mistakes, cost myself a chance to win The Open title,’’ said Woods, who tied for sixth, three strokes behind winner Francesco Molinari. “I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice, and so for them to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that’s something they will never forget.”

Few will forget Woods’ 15th win in a major championship and the physical and personal travails he had to overcome to get there.

He won that 2008 U.S. Open with two stress fractures in his left tibia and had surgery a few days later. In the fall of 2009 came the revelations of his infidelities, which led to the breakup of his marriage and a divorce in 2010.

After a few fallow seasons, he won five times in 2013, including the Tour Championship, but back problems were starting to set in. He had his first back surgery in 2014, another in September 2015 and another a month later. His back was so bad that everyday living became an issue. He didn’t play a single tournament in 2016 and only one in 2017.

His 2017 was marked by two significant events, one that gave him his body back and one that rocked his soul.

In April, he had spinal fusion surgery, which worked a miracle at a time when he thought he might never play again. But in the summer of that year, he hit rock bottom when he was found in a daze of painkillers at the wheel of his stopped car with the motor running, was arrested and was charged with driving under the influence in Florida.

Getting him through all this, he said, was his children’s “infectious happiness.”

Woods embarked on a 2018 season as good as he had felt in years. “Luckily, I had the procedure on my back, which gave me a chance at having a normal life. But then all of a sudden, I realized I could actually swing a golf club again,” he said after his Masters win. “I felt if I could somehow piece this together, that I still had the hands to do it. The body’s not the same as it was a long time ago, but I still have good hands.”

Then came his most significant aha moment, winning the Tour Championship in September 2018. Now anything was possible, and when he arrived in Augusta last April, he was the betting favorite on many lines across the country.

On the final day, he was two shots out of the lead after rounds of 70-68-67. With the threat of storms in the later afternoon, the Masters went to an early start, with threesomes off the first and 10th tees. Woods played with Molinari, the leader, and Tony Finau.

Woods made the turn a shot back, then bogeyed the 10th hole. But Molinari started to make a hash of things with a double bogey on the dangerous 12th. A whole cast of characters had shot up the leader board. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele each had the lead at one point.

Then Woods birdied 13, 15 and 16 and went two shots in front. His tee shot on 18th ended up a little too far right with mud on the ball. His approach came up short of the green. He didn’t take any chances at being cute with his pitch, knocking it 12 feet past and then two-putting for the victory over Koepka, Schauffele and Dustin Johnson.

Remarkable, when you think about it, but this was the first time Woods ever had come from behind to win a major championship. In his first 14, he either had the lead or was tied for it going into Sunday.

Sitting in the commentary box for Sky Sports was Butch Harmon, who had coached Woods through his first eight major titles.

“I’ve never seen him show emotion like that. At any time, anywhere, any time in his life,” Harmon said. “He was humbled by his own mistakes. The things he went through, he created, nobody else created them, and he came out the other side.”

When Woods was asked what it meant to have a fifth green jacket, his response was filtered through the lens of his children.

“I’m excited,’’ he said, “about show and tell at school.”

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