The final round of the Masters was shaping up to be like no other long before the first sets of hopefuls teed off at 7:30 yesterday morning. The sun had been out for a mere half hour, and yet Augusta National was packed with fans hoping to catch breathtaking action courtesy of first-ever threesomes dispatched on both the first and 10th holes. Organizers changed the schedule in a race against time, what with thunderstorms slated to hit the course in the afternoon — and players had to adjust accordingly, some more than others. Tiger Woods, for instance, had to wake up much earlier than usual to account for the longer prepping his brittle body required.
Such had been the case with the four-time Masters champion since he returned to action full time in 2018 following a fourth surgery on his back this time two years ago. Recovery from spinal fusion was long and hard, and, for a while, Woods didn’t know if he could play at all. In fact, golf was farthest from his mind. As when news of his extramarital affairs broke in 2009, he needed to set his life in order first. His children were growing up, and he wanted to be there for them first and foremost. And so he endured with forbearance a messy divorce, an arrest for driving while overmedicated, and the weight of great expectations accompanying his return to the sport.
If there’s one thing Woods learned through all the trials, it’s the value of restraint. And in competition, it showed in his capacity to quickly move on from missteps. Perhaps he was thankful to simply be in the mix given his brushes with injury; in complete cognizance of his frailties, he became more forgiving of himself in the aftermath. Certainly, it showed in how he made his way to an extremely unlikely fifth victory at Augusta National over the weekend. He was far from flawless through four rounds of alternately cautious and anticipatory golf, and yet he emerged triumphant because he knew the extent of his abilities and never once thought to push beyond his limits regardless of circumstance.
Considering where Woods stood and the fickle nature of the sport that seemed to have already gotten the better of him too many times for comfort, his latest major championship win may well be his greatest. In a career full of highlight reels, the sight of him hugging son Charlie off the 18th green figures to be the best of all. He has come full circle, having done the same to father Earl in 1997, when he took the world by storm with an utterly dominant showing. This time around, he relied on precision and not power, on planning and not pressing, on patience and not potency.
What’s next for Woods? In light of his physical state, maybe nothing. In light of his mental preparedness, maybe everything. He’s an old 43 with middling length off the tee and troubling streakiness on the putting surface, but he brings with him unparalleled experience that propels his unmatched shotmaking on approach and around the greens. And, if nothing else, his strengths should help him at the PGA Championship next month; as his podium finish at the 2002 United States Open proved, Bethpage Black suits him. After that, who knows?
Meanwhile, Woods is rightly savoring his 15th major title and not quite ready to consider what’s next just yet. As he noted, “there were so many guys who had a chance to win. The leaderboard was absolutely packed, and everyone was playing well. You couldn’t have had more drama than we all had out there, and now I know why I’m balding. This stuff is hard.” Indeed. Redemption has already come. Anything else from here on is a bonus.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.