Cheers. Tears. Exhales. The first two were bottled up for over half a dozen years, but then when the exhale came Sunday afternoon, the tears flowed and the exclamations of joy burst forth.
Tiger Woods was back.
As a certified Tiger fan for over half my life, I've ridden the highs and the lows of his career. I consider him the greatest golfer of my generation and second only to Jack Nicklaus on the all-time list. But the last 10 years have not been easy -- not for Tiger and not for his fans.
Each golf season would roll around and the questions would surface, much like the lingering back issues for the former world number one. Each tournament, each major, and each recovery from injury would start the hope anew, only to be dashed like a shank into the trees. Fans and the golfer alike endured jeers, laughter at his misfortunes, and plain old hate when reports of chipping failures or that he can't or putt or walk would surface. But after a successful last year, or what we could consider a successful season in the Tiger Woods post 2009 era, it seemed different this time.
This past Thursday at the start of the Masters, those in the Tiger fan camp once again gathered a collective strength and marched into the pool of Tiger doubters, naysayers, down-right haters that we encounter in the national media, among our family and friends, and especially find online in those with a keyboard and a social media account. We braved the elements on Friday when he faltered a bit, puffed our chests out when he made big strides on moving day, and were rewarded with the penultimate gift: Tiger Woods in the final group on Master Sunday.
Much like the last seven years, his final round was a roller coaster. But when he made the turn, so did the tide. A misstep by then-leader Francesco Molinari at 12 opened the door. As I was watching, I could only hear Tiger's own words in my head. The younger players on the PGA Tour over the years told him: "we want to go against you." Well, now they can. Now they'll see. And they did. Along with the rest of us, including the doubters and haters.
Tiger made birdie on 13 and 15. And he was in the lead. Chills. Joy. Nervousness. And that's when the text messages, the tweets, and the posts started rolling my way, everyone knowing I'm a Tiger Fan.
"I can't believe it." "No way." "He will choke." I just smiled and responded the same to every one of them, "just watch and enjoy. This is history."
When he sank his short bogey putt for the win, a huge smile ran across Tiger's face, and on the faces of every single Tiger fan, and I suspect even some of the doubters. How could you not? This man had done what many deemed impossible. He won his 5th Masters and his 15th major.
Raw emotion has rarely been displayed by Tiger Woods. But out of the shadows of the old, stoic Woods, came the glowing smile of a man running to hug his young son, daughter, and mother.
I sat there watching with my arm around my 4-year-old son, taking it all in, tears welled up and chills on my arms. This is history. And maybe so too are the dark days of Tiger Woods.