Tiger Woods Wins 2019 Masters
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today in Augusta, Ga., what seemed impossible just a few years ago became a reality. Tiger Woods, who seemed a longshot to win another golf tournament - let alone another major championship - did just that, winning his fifth Masters by one stroke. It was his 15th major title and his first in almost 11 years.
Joining us now to tell us more about it is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, welcome.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you. Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: So this story is all over social media. It's all over the world. People are tweeting about what they were doing the last time he won - my personal favorite, that Destiny's Child was beginning their final world tour. But Tiger has won a few times before - a few. So what makes this different?
GOLDMAN: Oh, boy. Well, you know, because a couple of years ago, Tiger Woods said he could barely walk. I think that's what makes this significant. He thought his career might be over. His back problems were debilitating. So the talk of winning - of winning a major seemed farfetched to say the least. But then he had fusion surgery - that was his fourth back surgery - and it worked.
And last year, he started his climb back. He built to a victory in the prestigious TOUR Championship in September of last year. And that proved he could win again. And today, he proved he could win a major again. It's the first major victory since 2008 - the 2008 U.S. Open - first Masters win since 2005. And the 14 intervening years are the longest gap between victories in Masters history.
And Michel, amazingly, this rekindles the question of, can he beat Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championships? Eleven years ago, when he won No. 14 - that U.S. Open in 2008 - it seemed like a matter of when and not if that would happen. But to come back now and again start this talk about Tiger catching Jack, we just never saw it coming.
MARTIN: How did he do it today? Tell me - because it was a wild tournament overall. I mean, at one point, like, there were five guys in contention, like, five people tied. You know, the whole thing was wild. So how did he do it today? How did he pull it off?
GOLDMAN: It was amazing. At first, I should say he won coming from behind, which is a first. This is his first major that he's won without having at least a share of the lead going into the final round. And he started today's final round two shots behind the leader, Italy's Francesco Molinari.
Woods was kind of slow getting going, but he said afterwards that he just kept plodding - he used that word a bunch of times, plodding. And Molinari look great early on. He was sinking clutch putts. But then on hole 12, the par three in famed Amen Corner, Molinari put his tee shot in the creek in front of the green. And that changed the complexion of the tournament right there.
As Woods said later, it let a bunch of people back into the tournament. Really good players, some of the best in the world, like Brooks Koepka, who won two majors last year, world No. 2-ranked Dustin Johnson, they surged. But through it all, Woods played steady. And the last few holes, he did better than steady. He had three birdies - one under par - in his last six holes. And he won by a stroke.
MARTIN: We have about a minute left, Tom. So does this mean something for men's golf? I know that there's this whole question of, like, the Tiger effect and all of this. And, you know, he hasn't been on the scene except as a - sort of a sad sidebar in recent years. Does this mean something for men's golf overall for the sport?
GOLDMAN: I think it does. You know, Woods and his tremendous success years ago spawned a new generation of young athletic golfers with complete games. The golf out there is really good. And today, all those young golfers he spawned, he beat them in the biggest tournament when the pressure was greatest and when they were all playing really well. And so he again is on top, which I think is maybe disconcerting for the young guns who thought Woods was going to kind of fade off into the sunset. Not yet.
MARTIN: Exciting for the over-40 set overall, right? Now tell the truth, Tom. You're going to watch it again right now, aren't you?
GOLDMAN: I am.
MARTIN: All right. That's NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thank you.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF BENNY SINGS' "PASSIONFRUIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.