Nearly 14 months removed from a life-threatening car accident, Tiger Woods stunned the world and captured the hearts of fans across the country. The legendary golfer once again used his celebrity pulpit to fully command the narrative of the Masters. The way he dominated the sport for more than a decade cannot be divorced from who he is, what he did for the sport and what he accomplished.
Scottie Scheffler, meanwhile, simply staying upright and focused on his craft, won the Masters. He finished 23 strokes ahead of Woods, who shot a second straight 78 to finish 47th. But he remains a magnetic force mainly because he changed the perception of golf, even lured casual fans. Woods’ all-around brilliance is his trademark, pairing his box-office appeal and enormous influence in marketing. By all appearances, he still draws a crowd and a nation’s curiosity while emerging as the top story at the Masters, even when 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama slipped the green jacket onto Scheffler’s back.
Woods’ achievements are astounding, but surely he has not been the same unmatched player since his sex scandal unfolded. And after somehow and amazingly overcoming the lowest points in his career, he’s aiming to march to historic territory. The chase of No. 18 is still on his mind, and with every attempt to regain his dominance, he has succeeded against all odds to stay in the limelight and remain the popular face. Many think that Woods, who had a wonderful story to tell, will win another Masters title. People, as we know, particularly the sports fan, want to see history. And until a new hero emerges, Woods will be celebrated, fans will relish his signature moments and root for him in his pursuit of greatness.
Our obsession with him continues, in large part because of how he’s perceived by the public. He is, without a doubt, one of the most popular athletes in the world, even after struggling to maintain his personal excellence. We are enamored with his emphatic fist pumps, regardless of where he sits on the leaderboard. We can’t seem to get enough of Tiger.
He wasn’t at his best. But he didn’t have to be. At every step on his path back to competition, there were people who drew inspiration from him. The disappointment of what happened on Sunday was overwhelmed by the anticipation of what could still happen. Coming into this, so much of the conversation was about whether his body was close to being ready for this year’s Masters. In his return this weekend, he incredibly played 72 holes and completed four rounds at the Masters.
Because he is Tiger Woods, the star, the big name, and because he’s still the only one who stands out, he earns the participation trophy. Woods, who has won the Masters five times, established himself as golf’s golden boy who’s still interesting because we saw his fall from grace and pulled for him to make a comeback.
The massive crowd roared Tiger’s name again and again as he waved. Flashbulbs popped from all corners as fans captured his every move as usual. Woods, unexpectedly paying folks a visit at Augusta, limped heavily as he walked the course. But he still gave it a shot. And we tuned in.