From the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” to the Cleveland Cavaliers epic 3-1 comeback, we always remember where we were when the greatest moments in sports occur. This will prove to be the case with Tiger Woods, who after years of hardship, won the 2019 Masters on April 14.
The win meant more than just rewriting the record books, as Woods now has 81 career PGA tour wins, one behind Sam Snead’s career record of 82. He also only trails Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 majors by three.
The 2019 Masters win was the rebirth of Woods’ prominence in the golf world, as it marked his first major golf championship win in 12 years.
It was the culmination of nearly a decade of personal redemption, from his marital infidelities that became headlining news towards the end of 2009 to plummeting all the way to 1,199 in the world golf rankings in 2017.
Masters weekend saw Tiger Woods do what few athletes have ever done: go from famous, infamous, to more famous.
To understand the magnitude of the win, one has to go all the way back to the start.
August 1996 saw a 20-year-old Tiger Woods turned pro and sign an endorsement deal with Nike, a partnership that would both help build up the game of golf and the name of the young Woods.
Less than a year later he won his first major, the 1997 Masters at 21 years old, becoming the youngest ever Masters winner. That June, the Official World Golf Ranking ranked Woods No. 1 in the world, marking the fastest ascent to No. 1 ever.
From 2000 to 2006 he won 39 events, 10 of them being majors. During this time, he earned what is now called the “Tiger Slam,” which is winning the four major golf tournaments (Masters, PGA, US Open, The Open) in a row, but not in a calendar year.
During this dominant run, golf majors would reach 7- and 8-digit viewership figures, especially when Tiger was in the final round.
Some of the best golfers in the world, like Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Rory Mcilroy and Xander Schaufelle, grew up watching Woods and have credited him for influencing their games.
Those men, some of whom are ranked in the Top 10 in the world golf rankings, watched at the 2019 Masters not just as fans, but as peers while the man they idolize growing up returned to form.
“This is definitely one of the greatest comebacks I think anybody’s ever seen,” Koepka said via The New York Post. “To be able to come back out here and have the Tiger of old back, as a fan, I love it. I think we all knew [another major] was going to come.”
Tony Finau, who finished 6th in the Masters, said that weekend that Woods’ Masters victory in 1997 was the reason he took up golf.
“You can’t say enough about Tiger and what he’s done for the game,” Finau said via the New York Post.
This would have been hard to imagine a decade ago, especially when Woods became embroiled in his infidelity scandal.
When he first came back to golf after taking time off, he was being booed and his poor play was not helping his image either. Then Woods started to suffer from injuries.
In 2012 and 2013, Woods suffered elbow and knee injuries that affected his play and ultimately forced him to withdraw and take time off. Then, from 2014 to 2017, Woods had four back surgeries that all but ended his golf career.
During this time, fans slowly started to cheer for Woods again and little by little fans voiced support with the desire to see him win again.
Even the Masters victory didn’t come easy as Woods remained outside of the Top 10 of the field after Round 1, though in the end he overcame and rewrote his place in history.
From an immortal amongst golfers to a humanized man, Woods’ victory called for a circle back to his first Masters.
When a 21-year-old Tiger Woods first embraced his father in pure joy, he knew there would be many more wins to come. Fast forward to 2019 where a 43-year-old Woods embraced his children, after a long road back to the top.
Now in the aftermath of his victory, while many have asked if he has reignited his chances of breaking the all-time majors win record, one can’t help but appreciate the comeback story that took place.
“It does [feel surreal]. I was texting one of my good friends last night that I couldn’t believe I won the tournament. It really hasn’t sunk in,” said Woods via CBS Sports. “Every now and then I’ll look over on the couch and there’s the jacket. Yeah, I did pull it off.”