Golf

Tiger Woods brings sports fans together more than any athlete ever has

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AP

Tiger Woods brings sports fans together more than any athlete ever has

After global scandal and physical decay prompted a multitude of instant judgments drawing dire conclusions, nearly all of them predicting his personal and professional demise, Tiger Woods roared again Sunday.

Roared louder than he ever could at any time in the wake of his many past successes.

And the world roared with him, louder than it ever could have before.

Coming from two strokes off the lead, Woods trampled the challenges offered by his colleagues, as well as that of hallowed Augusta National Golf Club, to win the Masters for the first time in 14 years and the fifth time since he blasted into celebrity with his first victory there in 1997, when at age 21 he immediately became the young king of American sports.

His triumph back then was seismic, with implications beyond golf and beyond sports. That was the event that put Tiger, his toothpaste-ad smile and his unique backstory into the hearts of millions of folks who had spent their lives ignoring golf.

Tiger on that Sunday in ’97 did what his father, the late Earl Woods, said he was ready to do, even as so many others said he was not.

Tiger on this Sunday, with his two children in attendance, did what only he knew he could do, with so many others skeptical and more than a few thinking he simply could not.

Not after the serial philandering and resultant domestic shame that busted his family into fragments. Not after the four back surgeries --  including spinal fusion two years ago -- that diminished his power and tested his perseverance, pushing him to brink of retirement. Not after missing the cut in garden-variety tournaments, skipping his beloved Masters three times in what should have been his prime and dropping to No. 1,199 in the world rankings.

And certainly not after 11 years without winning a major and entering this one at age 43.

He was done, right? Didn’t we all hear that? And have good reason to believe it?

Yet when Tiger decided to enter this tournament, there was a kernel of hope among his fans and CBS TV executives. No individual or team in American sports galvanizes an audience quite like Tiger. If he could be in contention entering the weekend, the eyeballs would follow.

If he was anywhere near the lead Sunday, he would dominate TV from coast to coast.

The Warriors, preparing for Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, were so captivated that coach Steve Kerr delayed video study to watch Tiger play the last two holes.

“Pretty amazing,” Kerr said.

What’s more amazing than Tiger’s win is the reaction, far and wide. His victory walk through the gallery was a trek of adoration, with a mass of humanity straining touch or be heard by a man who not so long ago surely felt unloved.

“I think Steph [Curry] almost cried,” Kevon Looney said of the team’s reaction.

Curry went straight to his phone, tweeting that what Tiger did Sunday represents the “Greatest comeback in sports.”

That Americans love a comeback story is cliché but true. Almost anybody with the right combination of gifts, with the exception of O.J. Simpson, can come back from the depths of despair.

Tiger, if only for now, is back on top because we’ve never seen anyone like him. It’s not every century that a little brown kid conquers golf. It’s not every athlete that can, in most salient ways, transcend race, religion, sexual identity and even, in this day and age, political affiliation.

[RELATED: Steph Curry shouts out Tiger Woods after historic 2019 Masters win]

Michael Jordan didn’t do that, and Tom Brady can’t do that. Neither can LeBron James nor Kevin Durant nor Curry. Only Tiger can bring this country together for a few hours with only the most vitriolic not feeling the moment.

He’s back. And we’re right back at his side, ready to eat from the palm of his hand, not because we love him but because we know what he has is so rare and special.

Derek Carr, George Kittle rejoice in Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters win

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USATSI

Derek Carr, George Kittle rejoice in Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters win

Tiger Woods transcends sports. Whether you're a golf fanatic like Warriors star Steph Curry or not, it's likely you followed the final holes of the Masters on Sunday. 

We know two Bay Area football stars were locked in as well. As Woods won his first major since 2008 and his first Masters since 2005, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and 49ers tight end George Kittle couldn't contain themselves.

The Raiders clearly are Team Tiger, too. 

Kittle's timeline is filled with tweets about Tiger. He even responded to Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker. 

[RELATED: Tiger brings sports fans together more than any athlete ever has]

Curry called the win the "greatest comeback in sports." For these two gridiron stars, it's just another example of Tiger Woods bringing all walks of life together when he's back to winning.

Masters 2019: Officer who collided with Tiger Woods glad he made birdie

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USATSI

Masters 2019: Officer who collided with Tiger Woods glad he made birdie

On Sunday, Tiger Woods did what many thought he never would be able to do again -- became a Masters champion.

Fourteen years removed from his last green jacket, and 11 years since his last major win, Woods outlasted a stacked leaderboard Sunday at Augusta National to claim the 2019 Masters title.

But it very well could have had a very different ending.

During the second round on Friday, Woods' tee shot on the 14th hole sailed left into the patrons. As he's been known to do, Woods pulled off an incredible escape shot. As the ball soared through the sticky Georgia air, many of the patrons rushed to be around the greatest of all-time.

The police officer who was manning the ropes raced to block them from Woods, but he slipped on the wet ground and slid into the back of Woods' leg.

It could have been ugly and Woods walked to the green shaking his leg. But he was none the worse for wear, as he drained the birdie and went on to win his 15th major championship. 

After the run-in on Friday, the officer breathed a sigh of relief that his collision with Woods was nothing more than a funny viral moment.

"Well, he made birdie, so I guess it all worked out," he told GOLF.com. "Man, I am really glad he made birdie."

The officer, who asked to remain anonymous, believes Woods was more surprised than anything.

"Everyone was just coming in so fast and we try to get in the right spot. It’s so slippery. I was fine until I slipped ... and almost got Tiger Woods."

Woods was a good sport when asked about it after the round, and now it's a funny footnote in the most memorable Masters victory in history.

[RELATED: Tiger Woods complete greatest comeback in sports history by winning 2019 Masters]

Considering Woods won by one shot over Brooks Kopeka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schuaffele, it's a good thing he made birdie after the takeout slide.