On one of golf’s great days, in a picture perfect corner of the southern state, the comeback to end all comebacks reached its exalted conclusion when Tiger Woods threw two arms to the skies and drank in the moment when he became a Major champion again.
Eleven years after his last Major, Woods had his 15th.
The noise when he sank his winning putt threatened to bring the famous old tree in front of the clubhouse down. The security guards high fived the patrons, the clubhouse staff clapped on the balcony and the chants of ‘Tiger, Tiger’ rang out loud and long. This was Augusta National but not as we know it.
They had come in their thousands daring to dream the dream and he did not let them down. When the door opened Woods strode through it, like the Woods of old.
For his children Charlie and Sam, who he crushed in an emotional greenside embrace afterwards, it must have been like a storybook brought to life.
“I hope they’re proud of their dad. They have only known golf as a source of pain to their dad; now they see the other side,” said Woods, wearing his fifth Green Jacket.
“They were there at The Open last year when I got close and didn’t get it done. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.
“To have them here and to see this as witnesses is very special. To have them see their Pops win, just as my Pops saw me win means everything to me. I’m excited about show and tell at school.”
The parade of rivals waiting to congratulate him afterwards underlined how they too had been drawn in by the tale of The Big Cat’s Return.
To some he was their childhood hero. They had spoken idly of what fun it would be to duel with him on the back nine of a Major. Be careful what you wish for.
Is this the greatest comeback in sport? In truth, it isn’t even the greatest comeback in golf. Ben Hogan won the 1950 US Open 16 months after he had almost died in a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus.
Woods’s return from a fourth back operation has to be placed in some historical context. But all the same there is no arguing with the scale of his bounceback from the spinal fusion operation he underwent two years ago when his career looked over.
To Woods in 2017, a comeback meant being physically able to play with his children not being in the final group at the Masters. He was ranked 1999 in the world and to all intents and purposes an ex-golfer.
He had been to places which would have consumed others. There was the self-inflicted trauma of his marriage break-up and his post-fire hydrant weeks in a sex addiction clinic. There was the humiliation of the arrest video, spaced out on prescription drugs.
For a private and proud individual these public humiliations would have pained him as much as anything physical. But from the ignominy and the injuries has come a new Woods.
He is a more open book now, more comfortable with himself as a person rather than the image of himself he projected for so long. He choked back the tears at the start of his press conference last night.
Before the first ball was struck at Augusta, he was talking frankly about the limits his creaky back puts on his putting practice these days. Ahead of the final round he confessed to feeling the pressure ahead of his final round.
But he can still do superhuman it seems.
There had been near-misses at two Majors last year but fittingly, at the place where he announced himself on the biggest stage by lapping the field as a 21-year-old, Augusta National was the heavenly setting where it all fell into place.
In Sunday red, Woods will go down as the man who stopped time at the Masters.
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