Sam Burnham, Curator
My interest in pro golf is typically limited to April. When the golf world focuses on the best course in the world, I focus with them. Full disclosure: I’m partial to Bubba Watson and fellow Gamecock Danny Willett and I’ve never been a huge fan of Tiger Woods.
On Sunday, however, as the last grouping pushed into the later tee boxes, it sort of hit me what was happening. It was a minor epiphany and I had a moment when I connected with him. I understood.
Several years ago we saw his life, his entire world, collapse all around him in a very public manner. Without reciting all of his transgressions, he lost his marriage, his home, his career, his health, everything. The rumors weren’t much worse than what we heard on the news. He had several instances when his “comeback” was heralded but one thing or another always intervened and nothing happened.
But what we saw Sunday in Augusta was akin to the Tiger of old. But there was something different. He’s older, perhaps wiser. He’s not the bright eyed kid who wowed the world 22 years ago on that same course. That kid is now balding and has several back surgeries behind him. He’s got kids of his own - kids old enough to remember the fall but not the previous ride to the top. They deserved to see their dad triumph.
When they got to Amen Corner I was counting the strokes. The announcers were recalling that his history is one of having a lead and keeping it. There were certainly those who suspected he’d pull his back or double bogey his way through a bunker but that wasn’t what his face was reading. He was patient. He was calm. He was calculated. I haven’t heard him say it but I think he knew at that point that he was going to win.
That's the factor that has been missing in the other comebacks. We haven’t seen that intellectual and psychological edge he brings to the course. We haven’t seen that all-business determination that has had him described as cold, perhaps inhumane. We saw it today.
That was the moment I became a Tiger fan, at least for today. I wasn’t cheering for an aging golf legend, I was cheering for a middle-aged man who has apparently gotten his mind and his life back. How could I not cheer for that?
After today, I don’t even care if he wins another Masters or even another tournament. If he has won in that perilous competition with himself, then he’s already won the big one. And if he can win that one, we all can.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire