Welcome back, Tiger

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In Sealy, it’s always a great day to be a Tiger.

At Augusta National Golf Club, Sundays are scary days to run into a “Tiger” and this last one was no different.

On championship Sunday we wear red and although he was only two shots off the lead entering the day, Tiger Woods made shots that catapulted him to the top until he was far enough ahead that ESPN deemed it close enough to ping all of its subscribers that something special was about to happen.

That’s how it got me, as I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not dialing up the golf stream every night, but as soon as I finished reading the two-line update, my laptop sprung to life, although of course not with the rapidity I hoped as is always the case when you’re in a rush.

As mentioned, I don’t normally find the golf channel on the internet, so it did take a little bit to find a good stream but once I was there I wasn’t budging. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to have gone through a similar path to the place where we’ll all forever remember where we were when Mr. Woods sank that putt to win his fifth green jacket.

It’s not the number five that is so astonishing (although Tiger now sits alone in second all-time behind Jack Nicklaus’ six Masters Tournament championships) but it’s the number of years in between his previous major tournament championship.

Surely just about everyone heard of the fall from grace he endured with all of the scandals and things we don’t need to get into. With injuries only adding on top of that delay, it was quite unclear whether or not he would ever compete for another mid-major let alone win one of the tops, especially after a security guard lost his footing and nearly crashed directly into the ankle of Woods.

Anyway, so he found himself at the top of the leaderboard with only two holes to go and the crowd became only the more aware of what was to come. On his walk up to the green on 18, a large ovation greeted him and it was only emphasized by my claps which I’m sure were also heard over there in Georgia.

The rest of the trio finished up before Woods and it was truly just a tap in that he needed to ice the cake, but he did it and supplied a classic Tiger roar with his hands above his heads, the same pose nearly all of America likely broke into after seeing the top golfer for the longest time return to the top of the mountain.

It was certainly a spectacle to see and even coming from simply a huge fan of all sports, I’m not ashamed to admit the chills all over my body and the tears welling up in my eyes. It was an incredibly amazing moment that was only multiplied when Woods made his way to his family, recreating one of the most polarizing images of his career possibly.

In 1997, his first full year on the professional tour, Tiger compiled the largest win-margin while also becoming the youngest to win the Masters Tournament at 21 years old, while I sit writing this at 23 and nowhere near a major title, but that’s another story.

This story continues with the long embrace between Tiger and his father, Earl, which has stood the test of time. Last weekend, 22 years later, Tiger was coming off hole 18 with the championship under his belt looking for a family member to embrace next.

Another thing I noticed was that he saved that first reaction off the course for his family; fans were reaching over the string barriers reaching for high-fives, but he just pumped his fists until he found his son, who was not alive the last time he won a major tournament, and picked him up for a big bear hug.

It was just a normal Sunday afternoon, when did it get so dusty in here? Even the broadcaster, legendary Houston Cougar Jim Nantz, spoke to the gravity of the moment the best way he knows how.

“I never thought we would see anything that would rival the hug with his father in 1997 but we just did,” he said.

I truly marvel at the ability that sport has to bring people together, no matter where they were coming from what they look like or where they’re going next.

If anyone says anything along the lines of, “Hey Tiger’s got a two-shot lead heading into the last two holes!” you can bet hundreds of millions of people will be gluing their eyeballs to a screen to witness what happens next and I’m glad to play a small role in that overall beast.

Welcome back, Tiger.

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