Augusta, Ga. – The improbability of Tiger Woods’ Masters victory in 2019 is best measured by his prospects to win the Masters in 2020.
He’s healthy. He won the Masters the last time it was contested. He’s perhaps the greatest golfer of all time, and ranks second all time in major titles. Yet no major oddsmaker has him ranked among the top 10 most likely golfers to win the 2020 Masters.
If Woods is to win, he will do so the way he did it last year — with course knowledge and nerves, by fending off Father Time, and by holding his ground while those around him fail.
He didn’t win in 2019 with a magical chip-in or a historic back-nine rush. He won with a final-round 70 that left him one shot better than Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele.
Then he walked off the 18th green to hug his children, 22 years after winning his first major and Masters to hug his father.
That first Masters title launched the most dominant decade in modern golf history, a time during which Woods loomed over the sport, intimidating opponents and challenging history. He seemed like a golfing machine.
The Tiger Woods who spoke this week at the Masters seemed more nostalgic than imperious. He began to choke up when describing seeing his son after tapping in for his last major victory.
“I walked off the back of the green to see Charlie there,” Woods said. “Just opened our arms. It meant a lot to me and still does. It just reminded me so much of me and my Dad, and to come full circle like that — you know, a little teary.”
Winning multiple Masters is unlike winning other majors. You return as a champion to the same course, pick the Champions Dinner meal, shake the same hands, remember how you played every hole.
On his first trip to the Masters, 25 years ago, Woods played a practice round with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
“Arnold made a putt on 18 to take all the skins,” Woods said.
The two told him to play with them in the Par-3 tournament. Woods told them he had a later tee time. They pulled some strings.
Woods also remembered serving burgers and shakes during the Champions Dinner after his first Masters win, and seeing Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead drinking milkshakes instead of expensive wine.
This week, Woods is willing to reminisce but unwilling to concede the future. He says he can contend.
“Yes,” he said. “I can.”
He also acknowledges that the crowd support that seemed to lift him last year will be missing during a November Masters.
“It’s going to be stark in what we see, our sights into the greens, the energy that you hear from different roars, from different parts of the golf course,” he said. “You’re on the putting green on one and you can hear eagles down on 13. That’s what this tournament is all about, and we’re not going to have that this year.”