It is not entirely clear what shade of green was the focus of Tiger Woods’s attention as he strolled up the 18th fairway at the Augusta National Golf Club Sunday afternoon.
Maybe his focus was on the color of the bentgrass on the 18th green, where he hoped his path to redemption would be completed. Maybe it was on the coveted green jacket given to the winner of The Masters, a jacket Woods last donned as champion in 2005. Maybe his attention was on getting rid of the green envy he had held for the 11 Masters champions who have won it since.
As the color green filled Woods’s thoughts, the rest of the field was struggling with another color: red. Early in his career, Woods became famous for his ability to close out major tournaments. Each Sunday, Woods would don his trademark red polo and black pants as he took the course in search of blood. Tiger’s Sunday Red became synonymous with his triumphant courage and skill in the most high-pressure situations. The field took notice.
Over the past 12 years, the sharp red of his shirt had mellowed into a duller coral. After a scandalous affair and multiple surgeries, Woods’s game had dropped significantly, and it seemed as though one of the greatest golfers ever would never come back. From 2009-2018, Woods was forced to miss 12 major tournaments and was cut seven times.
Despite numerous injuries and personal drama, Woods has clawed his way back to the top, and all he sees is green.
Sure, there were glimpses of greatness. In 2013, Woods finished the Masters tied for fourth. That same year, he finished tied for sixth at the British Open. Still, the Tiger Woods of the early 2000s was only a distant memory, a dormant volcano no one thought would ever erupt again.
It was remarkable Woods was even on the course in 2018. Over the course of his career, he has had four knee surgeries, four back surgeries and missed tournaments because of elbow, Achilles and neck injuries. Each time, he has had to adjust his swing and his game to accommodate his breaking body. Each time, Woods seemed to come back weaker.
The end of 2018 marked the beginning of his return. In the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship, the final major tournament of the year, the volcano began to rumble once again. Woods shot a six-under 65 in the final round to finish second, only two shots behind Brooks Koepka. Woods entered the day in a six-way tie for sixth.
Woods followed his success at the PGA by winning the 2018 Tour Championship. The traditional golf crowd disappeared at East Lake Golf Club that day, replaced by the hoots and hollers of spectators who spilled onto the course to witness greatness they had not seen in more than 10 years.
Strolling down the fairways of Augusta, Woods had his mojo back, his red polo burning brightly as ever. The red bled over to the leaderboard as he recorded birdie after birdie. Woods’s opponents crumbled under the pressure. Koepka and Francesco Molinari each hit shots in the water.
While Woods may have finished the job on the 18th green, The Masters was won on the 16th tee. Just like his last Masters victory in 2005, when Tiger chipped in a shot that moved so slowly it stopped before falling in the hole, Woods pulled off another miracle at 16 by hitting his shot within four feet of the hole.
By the time he clambered onto the 18th green, Woods already had the major in hand and his Sunday Red became a Masters Green. Despite numerous injuries and personal drama, Woods has clawed his way back to the top, and all he sees is green.