Tiger back on prowl

first_imgThey said his career had entered its twilight. They said he’d never be the same again. They said he’d lost his killer instinct. At 29 years of age, golf’s golden boy had lost his luster. But as the sun set Sunday at Augusta, the embattled prodigy proved he’s still Tiger Woods. After four of the most memorable holes in PGA history, Woods once again donned the green jacket. The drought was over.It was his fourth Masters victory and ninth major title, but this one meant a little more. This meant more than moving into third on the all-time majors list, more than being halfway to Jack Nicklaus before the age of 30. This one made a statement.As that final 15-footer fell into the cup, Tiger was himself again. He’s married now. He retooled his swing. He has a new coach. But he’s still the best player in golf. After 10 majors without a title, Tiger was back on top. It was a familiar scene as Woods sank the final putt and erupted in celebration. This wasn’t the first time he’s walked to the clubhouse as a champion. But the path to the clubhouse was far from familiar. Tiger stood at two over after day one, when his opening round was canceled after 12 holes. Critics were patting themselves on the back nationwide. It looked like Tigers’ slide was destined to reach No. 11. After 36 holes, Woods was six strokes off the lead. His new swing was spraying drives all over the course. Woods himself seemed unsure of where each swing would end up. Then, all of sudden, he was Tiger again. His drives straightened out, his putter couldn’t miss. For seven holes, it was 1997 again. Woods rattled off seven-straight birdies, a Masters record. When the dust settled, he had turned a six-stroke deficit into a three-stroke lead. With 54 holes in the books, Tiger was in control.But Woods saved his best drama for the final round. After entering the day with a three-shot advantage, Tiger’s lead dwindled to a single stroke by the 11th. By the 16th, Woods continued to cling to a one-stroke lead. Then came the chip. Easily the shot of the tournament, Woods put his chip well off the hole and watched it roll to the lip of the cup, pause and drop in. Tiger would call it one of the best he has ever hit. Now the three-time champion led by two strokes with just two holes to play. He had just come up with a shot for the ages. This one was in the books. But Tiger had a few more surprises in store. Woods’ collapse over the final two holes was as unexpected as his historic comeback.After erasing a seven-stroke lead to vault himself to the top of the leaderboard, after taking control with a shot no one thought possible, Woods would give it all away with bogeys on the final two holes. It was inexplicable.Suddenly, a sure victory was headed to a playoff — and the momentum was clearly in Chris DiMarco’s corner. All but written off two holes earlier, DiMarco was on the verge of stealing the title. Meanwhile, Tiger had just blown a two-stoke lead in two holes. As amazing as his comeback had been, it looked like the wheels had come off for Woods.But, if the man proved anything this weekend, it’s that he can never be counted out. Tiger put his collapse behind him and birdied the playoff hole, capping it off with a 15-foot putt and a trademark fist-pump. For the first time since the 2002 U.S. Open, Tiger Woods was a champion. Along the way, he sent a possible eagle putt into the water, sprayed drives all over the course and landed a few jaw-droppers reminiscent of his glory days. But in the end, an emotional Woods was not focused on the absurdity of the final holes or the historical significance of what had just transpired.Tiger’s concern was for a man who could not be on hand to experience it all. Woods dedicated the win to his father, as tears formed in the champion’s eyes. It was a fitting end to what may be remembered as Tiger’s most human Masters triumph.last_img

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