I want Tiger Woods to win the 2019 Masters. I’m always rooting for a good story, and a Woods victory certainly would be that. But, honestly, I really want Woods to win this week because it would be so much dang fun.
I’ve been thinking about it since I saw what happened at East Lake in September. Thousands of frenzied fans stormed the final fairway to surround Woods as he wrapped up the Tour Championship. That scene showed that, even after all these years, no other golfer inspires the same kind of excitement as Woods.
“It gives me chills almost every single time I see it,” Woods said earlier this year about images of that spectacle.
I want to see something similar this weekend, except bigger, because this is the Masters. I want Tiger to make the leaderboard early and be on top of it Sunday. I want to feel the energy of a Tiger charge that I’ve only seen on television.
It may not happen. It’s been 11 years since Woods won a major championship, after all. He last won the Masters in 2005.
But there’s a decent chance those streaks end this week. I wouldn’t have believed that before Woods won at East Lake. Ditto for Woods.
“I didn't really know if I would ever get there again and, lo and behold, I got there again,” Woods said.
The Tour Championship was his first victory in more than five years. It had been that long since Woods contended at a major championship, too, until he finished tied for sixth at the British and runner-up at the PGA Championship last year. Woods electrified the galleries at those tournaments, too.
After years of injuries and self-inflicted personal problems, Woods looks like he can win a major championship again.
“I feel like I can win,” Woods said.
Man, it’s great to hear him talk like that again. It evokes the Woods who expected to win every tournament he entered. Everyone else did, too, including the many challengers who melted away as Woods took over tournaments.
Woods has been stuck on 14 major championships since 2008. It would be fitting him to break the drought here seems because this is where he won his first. That 1997 victory, by a record-breaking 12 strokes, is when Tiger Fever first broke out in golf.
A Woods victory this week wouldn’t look like that because it can’t. He was a phenomenon in those days. He overpowered this course so thoroughly that the powers that be “Tiger-proofed” it. Woods won two more green jackets after those changes because nothing could stop him back then, not even the stuffy suits at Augusta National Golf Club.
Nowadays Woods is a wrenched back away from being unable to compete. He’s so vulnerable that he picks and chooses which elements of his game to work on because his body won’t allow him to do it all.
“The hardest part is I just can't practice like I used to,” he said.
So, we won’t get the ultra-prepared, dominating Woods. Those days are over. Plenty of players hit it longer. Several younger players can best him.
But no one can come close to matching Woods’ resume. None of the top contenders this week has played in nearly as many majors (74 as a pro). They will never approach Woods’ 14 victories in majors and 80 overall.
Woods still can hit those laser-sharp iron shots to the greens he knows so well. Woods grinding his way to victory on this course sounds just as fun as when he did it with brute force and intimidation.
“I've got a pretty good little library in my head of how to play the golf course,” Woods said.
Majors used to be all that mattered to Woods. Topping Jack Nicklaus’ 18 victories was his goal since he was a kid. It seemed inevitable he would do it when he won seven of 11 majors, from the 1999 PGA to the 2002 U.S. Open, including the “Tiger Slam” of four in a row.
Now Woods seems content with the possibility that he may never win another one.
“After I won my 14th, I felt like I still had plenty more major championships that I could win, but unfortunately I just didn't do it,” Woods said. “I put myself there with chances on the back nine on various Sundays and just haven't done it.”
That’s a healthy perspective for Woods. His legacy is secure. Woods was the undisputed best player in the world for more than a decade. If he’s not better than Nicklaus, then no one else is better than him.
Selfishly, I want more from Woods, and I want it this week. I want to be there when Tiger makes his move this weekend. I want to hear the gallery roar like no other.
“It's fun for me, the fact that I can get people fired up like that, and they enjoy something I love to do,” Woods said.
I’ve enjoyed it from afar. Now I want to see it up close. That’s why I want Tiger Woods to win the 2019 Masters.
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