The tease and belief of Tiger Woods returning to his holy grail of success reached a point where it seemed too good to be true since his career started to unfold back in 2009. Life, drama, divorce, and an abundance of lingering injuries piling up throughout the years. Woods being able to come back and win tournaments, let alone a major, just was unlikely.
In 2013, he did win five tournaments, en route to being named PGA Tour Player of the Year despite not winning a major that season. The “he’s back” narrative was appropriate at the time, but Woods endured another four years of pain and suffering. The comeback excitement was getting just as old as a recent season premiere of Family Guy. The truth is for most golf fans who adore the sport regardless, Tiger was not missed until he actually back. It was a new era in golf. Young stars winning multiple majors, hitting the ball farther than ever, scoring lower than ever. Golf was actually still fun to watch. But Tiger is just that bacon to the cheeseburger you need to be more satisfied.
His recent comeback, that started in the 2018 season, did start to feel different than his other failed attempts. A couple tournament contentions, knocking on the door at the Open Championship, and then the Tour Championship Tournament for his 80th career win. Tiger seemed back for sure. More fans started watching again, and he had that impact on the sport that no other athlete has on their respective ones.
It is weird for me. Growing up playing golf, playing Tiger Woods EA Sports video games, watching golf when I could. Today I don’t consider myself this big Tiger fan, but it felt right to pull for him claiming his fifth Green Jacket on Sunday to make it 15 majors. For that number “15” being the reason, I can’t remember 13 of them.
Vividly, I can only remember watching Tiger win one major, his last one in the 2008 U.S Open at Torrey Pines. It was literally the first one I decided to sit down and watch from the start. His other major wins I only recall seeing from a SportsCenter highlight hoisting the Claret Jug, Wanamaker Trophy or putting on another Green Jacket.
A hobbled-up Tiger, who fell behind early in what is typically the most difficult tournament to win every year due to hellacious predetermined playing conditions set by the USGA.
It was Father’s Day Sunday of course, like every U.S. Open final round is. Rocco Mediate, a PGA Tour veteran sat in the clubhouse with the lead as Tiger was looking on a difficult 12-foot birdie putt to try to send it to a playoff.
A U.S. Open-esque putt — tough to read, lightning fast from an uncomfortable distance. Ho, hum, Tiger prevails as usual.
After another vintage Tiger celebration image, it just still etched in my mind when the broadcast switched to a disgruntled Mediate repeatedly saying, “I knew it. I knew it.”
With USGA rules, the two players were set to play in an 18-hole playoff the next day. The then 45-year-old Mediate likely would have been less discouraged about playing an extra day if was against anyone else, but Tiger.
Yes, attending after-school intramurals in fifth grade was still more important at the time, but I still caught the last hole of the playoff.
A relieved Tiger, celebrating with his ex-wife Elin Nordegren and daughter Sam Woods as he held off Mediate. It was known Tiger had a knee injury, but when he underwent surgery for a torn ACL shortly after — it went down as the U.S. Open won by Tiger Woods “on one leg.”
Before you get caught up in all the “will Tiger reach Jack Nicklaus’s record,” debate. Just go back and remember how you felt after he won number 14.