Apparently winning the Masters never gets old. Even if a person has done it almost as often as Sean Combs has changed names.
Tiger Woods was on the line Tuesday for the annual conference call between select media and the reigning Masters champion.
“I like the sound of that,” he began. He has won the thing five times, just one back of Jack Nicklaus’ record six, and still the title dances on his eardrums.
Your reigning Masters champion did not promise to reign again once April’s event is done. In fact, Woods went out of his way to explain just what a special combination of events went into last year’s victory. Those included his three birdies on the closing six holes — both par 5s and hitting it to four feet on the par-3 16th. And other various contenders lining up to hit the ball into Rae’s Creek as if there was a Closest to the Partially Submerged Turtle contest at this little club championship.
Winning the Masters is not as easy as he can make it look, you know.
“It’s crazy that somehow it all came together for one week, one magical week,” he said. “To have so many things go right that week — that’s what you have to do in order to win an event.
“But to do it there, there’s so many little things that have to go right, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done it four previous times. But last year was just an amazing week.”
Of course, this fifth one was a little different than the rest. This one marked Woods crossing over from golfing miracle to medical one. If you thought he was done after spinal fusion surgery in 2017 — I did, too — well, aren’t you still embarrassed? This one was special in so many ways: It was his first major win since the 2008 U.S. Open; it was the first time he won a major coming from behind in the fourth round; and it gave his two kids the chance to fight over wearing one over-sized green jacket on the flight home less than a year after they had watched him lose a lead at the British Open.
“To have them experience what it feels like to be part of a major championship and watch their dad fail and not get it done, and then to be a part of it when I did get it done – I think it’s two memories that they will never forget,” he said. That, he said, made the hugs coming off No. 18 on Masters Sunday all the sweeter.
His 2019 victory supercharged Augusta National in a way it hadn’t been since Nicklaus’ sixth win back in 1986. Once Woods got to reflect on the reaction — he and caddie Joe LaCava got together about a month later to watch a replay of final round — even Woods was caught by surprise. “I didn’t think that many people were going to be moved that way,” he said.
For Woods, more so now at age 44 and with such a hefty medical history, it’s all about prepping for the majors. He played four times in the calendar year leading to the 2019 Masters, placing no higher than 15th in the three stroke-play events. He throttled back a little on the practice rounds once he got to Augusta — not even getting on the course on a sodden Tuesday that week.
“I’ve got a blueprint for what I need to do and hopefully I can have the same feelings,” he said.
He has two appearances this calendar year — a T-9 at the Farmers Open and a 68th-place finish in Los Angeles on Feb. 16. His schedule, always subject to change, may well include back-to-back appearances at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (starting March 5) and the Players Championship (March 12). Then the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play two weeks before the Masters, which tees off April 9.
Oh, and because the world needs to know what the rich and titled eat, Woods announced his menu for the Champion’s Dinner preceding the tournament. The gathering of Masters champions will enjoy a culturally diverse spread of chicken and beef fajitas and sushi. He’s also considering a final course that was a bit of a lark after his first Masters victory in 1997, back when he was just a mischievous kid.
Showing his age, Woods said, “I’m debating whether or not to have milkshakes as desserts because that was one of the most great memories to see Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead having milkshakes that night in ’98.”
Winning the Masters never gets old. But those who win it do.
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