I still get chills just thinking about it, says Tiger Woods of 2019 Masters win
Even after 576 days, it sends a shiver down his spine. “I still get chills just thinking about it,” said Tiger Woods, referring, of course, to 14 April 2019 - the day he capped one of the greatest comebacks in sport by winning his fifth Masters.
The sight of Woods letting out a roar of delight on the 18th green at Augusta National that afternoon said it all. He’d been stuck on 14 majors since 2008 and, at least one point in the interim, had feared his career was over due to chronic back trouble.
He was back with a bang, sending some of the loudest cheers ever heard at the Georgia venue echoing down the corridors of tree-lined fairways. They were still thick in the air as Woods hugged his mum, Kulitda, and his two children, Sam and Charlie, at the back of the 18th green.
“To see Charlie there, it meant a lot to me and still does,” admitted Woods, speaking at the start of his press conference ahead of this week’s belated title defence, caused by the traditional first major of the season being held in November this year due to COVID-19.
“It just reminded me so much of me and my dad (Earl, who was waiting around the same position when Woods won his first Green Jacket in 1997), and to come full circle like that, it stills makes me a little teary.”
He was indeed choking up, but the 44-year-old had recovered his composure when he was later asked if it was possible to rank that success in his trophy-laden career.
“Well, I think that '97 was probably the one that stands out, obviously, with my dad and his heart surgery and coming to the Masters and winning my first major and the way I did it.
“But last year was more emotional in a different way just because of the struggles I've had and I had never, ever won a major coming from behind. It was in a threesome, which we had never done before on the final day, and we've never teed off that early.
“My kids were there, and it was just so special and so emotional in a different way. To come full circle from me being with my dad and seeing my son there and the same embrace, 22 years apart, pretty good bookends.”
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Woods making his Masters debut. As always, he’s there to win, but, before getting down to business on Thursday, he enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane.
“I got a chance to play on Wednesday with Jack and Arnold, and you know, at the time, I was a little punk college student, and we're playing for some skins, and I didn't have any cash in my pocket, and you know, Arnold makes a putt on 18,” he said of his debut in 1995. “Takes all the skins away from us, but then went to the Par 3 contest, and we played together, and that was awesome.
“That was one of the most incredible memories I think that I've ever had, and the story that I always tell all the amateurs I've ever played with, on No. 1, I putted off the green on my first hole. Putted right in the gallery.
"Played with Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal] and chipped it back up and made the putt there, made a hell of a bogey. Then just pumped it right over the top of the bunker on 2 to start my Masters.”
While not on the same scale as last year, Woods finds himself having to defy the odds once again at Augusta. He’s made just six starts since golf came out of lockdown in June and hasn’t come close to contending.
“I haven't put all the pieces together at the same time, whether it's I've driven well or hit my irons poorly. Or I've put the ball striking together, and I haven't putted well. And then I've had it where I've putted well and I've hit it poorly,” he said.
“Hopefully this year, I'll be as consistent as I was last year. Last year, I was able to hit a lot of really good iron shots and I putted great. I had a great feel of the greens.
“Today, I did a little bit of work on the greens, just like I did last year. I took Tuesday off and didn't play. Tried to get a feel for the greens, and the greens were a little bit slower than I had expected. But you know, with the rains coming up and the forecast, you just never know.
“That's one of the neat things about trying to figure this tournament out is Wednesday to Thursday, this golf course changes a lot and what the committee does. Hopefully I get the same feel as I did last year and put it all together.”
There will be no patrons around when Woods tees off at the tenth - a two-tee start is in operation for the opening two rounds - on Thursday. But, in a week when lots of things were different, the traditional Champions Dinner was still being held on Tuesday night.
“This whole day is awfully special,” said Woods of hosting that and picking the menu.
“I may never have the opportunity to take the jacket off property again, and so this means a lot to me today. To have this opportunity to have the Champions Dinner and to be able to host it tonight with all the guys that are here, it's going to be awfully special for me.”
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