Nestled in the heart of Augusta, Georgia sits one of the oldest and most prestigious courses created in the game of golf. The Masters Tournament, often referred to just as the “Masters,” is one of the four major championships played in professional golf.
Carrying a rich tradition of 75 years, professional and select amateur golfers are invited every year to compete for one of the most coveted prizes in golf: the green jacket. The list of past winners include legendary golfers such as Fred McLeod, Sam Snead, Bryon Nelson, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus, as well as recent stars like Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, and of course, Tiger Woods.
Often hailed as our generation’s greatest golfer, and predicted by many to be “The Chosen One” to surpass Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major golf championships, Woods’ game and public image has been shattered by recent off-the-course drama. What began as a simple car accident unraveled to a tale of infidelity and sexual addiction, which led to his bitter divorce with his wife.
Much has been speculated about the future of Tiger Woods’ legacy. The man who was once infallible on the golf course and a model of consistency has shown an uncharacteristic unpredictability with his driver and putter. Moreover, his ability to hit crucial game changing shots during clutch situations seems to have left his repertoire. Since returning to the PGA Tour a year ago, he has missed the cut at Quail Hollow, finished 23rd at the British Open, and shot a dismal 18-over par in four rounds of golf at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He is currently winless in the past 11 major champions and it has been 17 months since his last victory.
For many faithful fans, the 2011 Masters was supposed to be Tiger’s chance for redemption. On the course where he had won his first major, many hoped Tiger would recapture his stroke and rekindle the magic that was once his, and for one and a half rounds of golf, the Augusta National seemed to have summoned that former self. Woods shot a -6 (66) during the second round of play and surged to a -10 during the 4th round, which consisted of four birdies and an eagle. However, his momentum fizzled in the back nine. Marred by a faulty putter, Tiger ended up breaking even the last 8 holes and finished his round with a 67.
That of course that wasn’t enough to win as 26 year-old South African Charl Schwartzel finished with a score of -14 to capture the grand prize. One would think the storyline for the 2011 Masters would be Tiger’s inability to close out the back nine.
However, the real storyline is that nobody blinked or quivered as Tiger charged back into contention. Jason Day and Adam Scott played behind Woods’ roars and both played a bogey-free back nine to finish ahead of him. Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald also played behind Tiger, and Ogilvy made five consecutive birdies in the back nine while Donald ended up going three under in his last six holes. Last but not least, Schwartzel posted a bogey-free back nine and birdied the last four holes.
This is a stark contrast since the days where Tiger instilled fear into the hearts of his competitors, and made the ground tremble as he stomped his way up leaderboard.
Alas, Tiger finally has a chink in his armor and in this new golf world, he is no longer invincible. So as he continues to try and recapture his former self, Woods now has to wonder what lies ahead of him and this new breed of golfers.