Tiger Woods and The Beginning of Spring
By Matt Baide
I know that around Lewis County, spring is the time where the clouds go away, the sun finally shows up and everyone breaks out their gloves and bats in anticipation of getting outside again.
Well, that hasn’t happened so far, unfortunately for the local spring sports teams. So I decided to share some thoughts while you sit inside and read this, occasionally checking to see if the rain stopped yet.
But for me and many others, spring doesn’t start until the first full week in April, which for golfers, is known as Masters week, the time of the year where golfers go into their garage (or in my case, spare bedroom) and dust off the clubs, perhaps give them a nice rinse and wait for the first sunny day to go out and pretend you’re good at golf.
But this year is different. There will be a Masters tournament without Tiger Woods again, and for many of us that have grown up watching Tiger play golf in April in Georgia, it’s a somber feeling.
I will still watch the Masters and will be chilling on my couch as the back nine on Sunday at Augusta unfolds. But without Tiger Woods, it feels like something is missing.
I’ve been playing golf since I was 12 years old, and ever since I began playing, Tiger Woods has been one of the biggest inspirations on and off the golf course in my life.
For most sports fans, there is that one moment that they remember like it was yesterday, and for me, that would be Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters, specifically the second shot on hole 16.
For those of you too young to remember or for those that never heard, I’ll paint the picture for you.
After the first two rounds, it was a two horse race for the Green Jacket as Tiger and Chris DiMarco were battling (side note: what happened to Chris? He fell off the face of the earth after this tournament). Both Tiger and DiMarco birdied the par-5 15th hole, and they came to the par-3 16th with Tiger holding a one shot lead. DiMarco hit the green with his tee shot while Tiger flew the water, but missed the green to the left, sitting just on the edge of the fringe.
I was in the clubhouse at Horn Rapids golf course, and quite a few people were sitting and watching to see if Tiger could pull off the victory.
Tiger looked over his second shot, walking around like he was going to use the ridge in the middle of the green instead of trying a chip shot directed right at the hole.
What happened next, I will never ever forget.
Tiger hit his chip shot up the ridge, and the ball came back down and gained speed down the hill but started to slow up as it got to the hole. And right as the ball got to the hole, it stopped for a few seconds, with the camera straight on the Nike logo of Tiger’s ball. And then it dropped, and everyone, Tiger, patrons in the stands and us in the clubhouse, shouted in astonishment. What…a…shot.
The shot wouldn’t have mattered, however, if Tiger didn’t end up winning the tournament. But he did, in a playoff, for his fourth Green Jacket.
I remind everyone of this because I believe Tiger Woods is done. I don’t believe Tiger will ever win another major. He might win another golf tournament before he officially puts his clubs in the garage and forgets about them, but overall, at 41 years old, with all of his injuries and personal life drama, I don’t think Tiger will ever be the Tiger he once was ever again.
I write that paragraph with the saddest of tones, because I’m sure for most athletes, there were players and/or coaches that we all looked up to growing up. And when you finally have to admit that your hero isn’t the person or player he or she once was, it’s not easy.
I can say this with about 85 percent certainty because I finally got to see Tiger play in real life. I went to the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I woke up at 6 a.m. with my parents and boarded the shuttle to the course. We got there right before Tiger’s tee time, so I hustled over to the 10th tee just in time to hear, “From California, the three time U.S. Open Champion, Tiger Woods.” I went to this hill and looked down to see Tiger lined up for his shot. He swung and hit the ball down the middle. Now granted, Tiger shot 10-over on Thursday, so his chances of even making the cut were slim, but that was a pretty good start if you wanted to stick around for the weekend.
I followed him down the fairway, and he hit his second shot so bad, it was like going to Riverside and watching a twosome who had been drinking on the front nine pull up to the 10th tee with the confidence that only Jack Daniels can provide, only to top his shot that didn’t get past the ladies tees. Tiger’s third shot was on the side of a hill, as he tried to hit a flop shot that didn’t work out so well, and he ended up with a bogey.
I followed him down 11, 12 and 13, and his round didn’t get any better. After 13, I decided I didn’t want to be depressed for the rest of the day, so I went and found some other guys like Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson and my mother’s favorite, Phil Mickelson.
Tiger shot 6-over that day and missed the cut by a lot. For the first time ever seeing my golfing idol, it was not how I envisioned it would turn out.
I hope I’m wrong about Tiger, I hope he does return to relevance and he does win another major, or five, so he can pass Jack and end the debate of who is the better golfer (it’s still Jack for now). But as of right now, I don’t see that happening. He’s lost that Tiger magic that made him so great back in the day.
It would be pretty Tiger-like to come back at age 45 and sneak out one more major, although Jack won again at 46, so maybe Tiger will come back at 47 and win one more just for kicks and giggles.
So while spring break winds down, take some time to turn on ESPN on Thursday or Friday, or CBS on Saturday or Sunday, sit down, and watch just a couple holes at the Masters. And remember that spring isn’t all about a ball with laces.
My Masters winner prediction is Rickie Fowler. The man is just due for a major title.
And hopefully, we all can get outside soon and try and reenact Tiger’s shot or hit bombs to right-center field, and hopefully get through nine holes without losing a golf ball.