Another One For The Record Books

The 83rd Masters is in the record books. For many years, the 1986 Masters was referred to as the greatest Masters ever played, but now the time has come that we must revisit that argument.

There’s no way I can take anything away from Jack Nicklaus’s Masters victory in 1986. I was lucky enough to be there. In fact, I got to interview Jack on his way to Butler Cabin, where the Green Jacket is awarded. I was also there in 1997 when Tiger Woods won his first Green Jacket. I was only a few feet away when Tiger came off the green straight into the arms of his father, Earl. And now, this year, I was lucky enough to witness young Charlie and Sam Woods rush out to congratulate their father, Tiger.

Even though Tiger had won The Masters four times previously, his children had never seen him do it, and I’m pretty sure that was one of Tiger’s motivating goals for the week. You can bet the emotions were running at an all-time high for the Woods family as dad sank that last putt.

The magnitude of Tiger’s win is difficult to put into perspective. He is often credited with bringing non-golf fans into the game, even if only as spectators, and that proved to be true. Sunday, in the middle of the Boston Red Sox game, the giant scoreboard at Fenway Park turned Masters Green with the words “Tiger Woods wins the 2019 Masters.” I never thought something like that could happen. There’s no doubt that Tiger’s win has changed the face of golf once again.

Back in 2006, Francisco Molinari caddied for his brother Edoardo in the Masters. This year, through the first three rounds, it really looked like the white jumpsuit worn by Masters caddies was going to be exchanged for a Green Jacket and headed to Italy as Molinari managed to stay comfortably at the top of the leaderboard. That is, until the 12th hole, where he plunked his tee shot into the famous Rae’s Creek. That was the opening that Tiger needed.

I chuckle when I think back to when Tiger was having his various problems. Other players would say how they wished Tiger were healthy so they could compete against him when he was at his best. Well, when former world number one David Duval heard the players say that, he was always quick to respond, “Like hell you do.”

Don’t forget, Duval was part of the group that had to face Tiger when he was at his best. After this massive victory, I don’t think many of the young bucks on Tour are saying that now.

As I watched Tiger earn his fifth Green Jacket, it’s still hard to believe that he has had four back surgeries, not to mention several on his knees. Just two short years ago, he was being asked the question, “Do you think you’ll ever be able to compete or even just to play golf again?” Tiger was always honest when he would say, “I hope so.”

No promises. Very few positive progress reports. But after his last back surgery proved successful and eliminated the horrible pain, he started his methodical rehabilitation. What an incredible transformation: such pain that he couldn’t even play with his children to winning the 2019 Masters. All I can say is, “Wow!”

Now that major #15 is in the books, fuel has been added to the fire, and the question of whether Tiger can surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles is already being asked. Will Tiger win more than Jack? There are those that felt very strongly that Tiger would never be the same player as before, that his injuries had robbed him of getting back to the top performance levels needed to win a major championship. Well, obviously he’s proven all the naysayers wrong, but even though Tiger is healthy today, we all know there’s no guarantee how long that will be the case. But after the fantastic showing at The Masters, we have to hope it continues for years to come.

On a side note: The next major championship on the schedule is The PGA Championship to be played in May right in The Independent’s backyard at Bethpage. Tiger won the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black so, if he were to win this upcoming PGA Championship, he would become the only player in history to win two different major championships on the same course.

After the week Tiger had here at the Masters, are you brave enough to say it can’t happen? I have no doubt that it’s a very real possibility and I can’t wait to find out.

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