Golf desperately wants Masters spectacle solely Tiger Woods can create

Even throughout costume rehearsals, Tiger Woods can transfer the earth at Augusta Nationwide like no one else. He spent his Masters observe time wowing his fellow professionals together with his potential to hit the lengthy ball and to fireside darts on the flags, and reminding everybody simply how a lot the sport nonetheless desperately wants him.

1000’s upon 1000’s of followers adopted his each transfer Monday and Wednesday, with the heavy Tuesday rains interrupting the love fest, and all of it made for a exceptional and frightful scene on the similar time.

Exceptional, after all, as a result of Woods might have been killed when he wrecked his SUV south of Los Angeles not even 14 months in the past, and will have misplaced his proper leg to amputation due to the grotesque accidents it sustained.

Frightful as a result of the practice-round visuals proved once more simply how a lot golf nonetheless desperately wants a scarred and banged-up 46-year-old who’s shifting round this area with an previous man’s limp.

When Woods first got here alongside as a university child within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, golf was a fringe, nation membership sport identified greatest for its shameful historical past of exclusion. Woods modified all the things, obliterating the sphere with unprecedented energy and precision. Packing Arnold Palmer’s muscle groups and mass attraction, and Jack Nicklaus’s dedication and talent, Tiger turned the primary golfer who stood because the world’s most recognizable athlete.

The sport rode that wave and held on for expensive life by way of the scandal, the surgical procedures, the roadside police video, extra surgical procedures, and even the crash. Golf would by no means change into as common as soccer, baseball, and basketball on this nation, however Tiger Woods made it really feel, at instances, as huge as the most important NFL Sunday. There was actual hope {that a} new era of athletes — impressed by Woods — would abandon the fields and diamonds and courts in favor of the fairways and greens to hold golf to larger heights.

Despite the fact that the Rory McElroys, Brooks Koepkas and Dustin Johnsons have introduced extra athleticism to the sport, that revolution hasn’t occurred. Kobe Bryant after which LeBron James had been there to hold the NBA after Michael Jordan took his ball and went residence. Golf has its share of promising younger gamers, however I don’t see any Kobes or LeBrons.

I don’t see any Tigers both, apart from the one who believes he can win this match on one leg.

As soon as upon a time, I didn’t assume any celebrity golfer may very well be greater than the Masters itself. Augusta Nationwide is Wrigley Area meets Fenway Park, the one main championship venue that by no means modifications and by no means disappoints. The texture of the solar and the sight of the greenest grass and whitest sand can have a profound restorative affect on a northeasterner worn down by one other lengthy winter.

However Woods proved me useless fallacious. I’ve lined the Masters with and with out him within the subject, and the distinction within the expertise is the distinction between a dusty, ragtag par-3 at your native muni and the twelfth gap at Amen Nook.

Whereas working towards on the seventh gap Monday, Jon Rahm noticed the gallery monitoring the Woods, Fred {Couples} and Justin Thomas group strolling down the second gap and mentioned, “I’ve by no means seen a mass this huge, even on a Sunday in rivalry.” Thomas, among the finest gamers on the planet, walked alongside that gallery for 9 holes and mentioned, “I had a few buddies ship me some footage [Monday] night time, and that’s in all probability extra folks than have ever watched me play a spherical at Augusta Nationwide, and so they weren’t there to look at me.”

They had been there to look at Tiger as a result of even at this age, and even on this situation, he transcends all the things concerning the sport he performs. In different phrases, no sport has ever wanted an athlete greater than golf wanted and wishes Tiger Woods.

Jordan elevated professional basketball globally, however Magic Johnson and Larry Fowl had already saved the NBA from late-night, tape-delayed irrelevance within the pre-MJ age lengthy earlier than Kobe and LeBron dominated within the post-MJ, social media age. Tom Brady helped notarize the NFL as must-see TV, however Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes got here in behind him as improvisational geniuses at professional soccer’s most seen place.

Nick Faldo and Greg Norman preceded Woods, and McIlroy, DJ and Jordan Spieth arrived on the again 9 of his prime. Authentic stars, with out query, however as champions and public figures not throughout the longest par-five of Tiger.

“On Monday, I’ve by no means seen something prefer it,” {Couples} mentioned Wednesday. “I’ve been within the final group right here, received right here. … I’ve footage [from Monday] that I’ll in all probability have made up. They’re not about me. It’s simply the gallery folks have despatched me … [from] No. 8, No. 7 manner again within the nook, and there’s [fans] 10 deep.

So that they wished to see the large man, and so they noticed him and so they noticed good golf. … It was unbelievable.”

And scary on the similar time. So at 10:34 Thursday morning, when the 15-time main champ and 82-time Tour winner tees off with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann, your entire golf world will cease and watch and roar.

This sport will maintain onto Tiger Woods for so long as it probably can, as a result of there isn’t anybody else remotely like him approaching from the rear.

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