He came to tee off on the first hole of the Masters amid loud cheers. The golfing legend was back on the course he knew so well. Bandwagon golf fans could finally watch a tournament again.
Tiger Woods was back at Augusta, Ga., as a changed man. Five months of tabloid rumors and accusations had decimated his marriage and his sparkling image. As he walked through the crowd, he gave an uncharacteristic smile, acknowledging the fans who had stood by his side throughout the ordeal. He vowed to clean up his game and respect golf: no more throwing clubs, no more cursing.
His first two rounds were clean and solid. He finished Friday only two strokes off the lead and feeling confident about his game. Maybe he was changed. Then came Saturday.
His drives were never in the fairway, his putting was mediocre at best and the old Tiger came out. He swore, he repeatedly reprimanded himself with a “Tiger, you suck” or “Come on, Tiger.” He let clubs fall to the ground. Yet, somehow, he was still in the hunt only four back going into the last round.
Sunday was like Saturday, only worse. One eagle on a par-4 couldn’t make up for wayward drives and misreads on the green. He came into the tournament telling everyone he was a completely different person, and his game was still in top form. Fans saw neither was true.
Fans were treated to the story of the year, however. A man with a wife and a mother suffering from breast cancer hit highlight shot after highlight shot to win his third green jacket. A man always in Tiger’s shadow came into the sunlight on the 18th green Sunday, sank a birdie putt and practically ran to his wife to hug her.
Phil Mickelson’s wife hadn’t been to a golf tournament in almost a year because of her disease. Yet, when the two hugged and a single tear ran down Mickelson’s cheek, the world knew the right man had won the tournament. The one who had been faithful; the one who always signed the autographs; the one who knew he was just an average guy playing the game he loved had emerged victorious.