Sean Pendergast

Masters 2019: Four Thoughts on Tiger Woods' Miraculous Career Resurrection At Augusta

Tiger Woods is all the way back.
Tiger Woods is all the way back. Screen grab from YouTube
Over the last decade, it's not so much that Tiger Woods had hit rock bottom, but it was the fact that, if you wanted to pinpoint exactly when he hit rock bottom, you had multiple rock bottoms from which to choose. The most high profile and shocking nadir was in November of 2009, when his then-wife Elin chased him out of the house with a golf club because of a sea of infidelities he'd committed, something he readily admitted over the next few months.

Then there was the DUI arrest a couple of years ago in Florida, where the dash-cam video surfaced online and showed a Tiger Woods that could barely stand up, barely speak. He had reportedly fallen asleep at the wheel. Then there were the numerous physical rock bottoms — the knees, the back, MY GOD... THE BACK. According to reports, Tiger had to take nerve blockers just to make it through sitting down at the champion's dinner at Augusta as recently as 2017.

Then there was probably the most painful part for Tiger — for the last half decade or so, he just hasn't been a good golfer. At THAT rock bottom, he was ranked 1,199th in the world as recently as December 2017. The phenom who won the Masters in 1997 in his early 20s, and spent 281 consecutive weeks as the top ranked golfer in there world, would have been a liability at a local member-guest tournament.

And now, here we are — Tiger is back. He won his fifth Masters and fifteenth major yesterday, and it wasn't some sudden fluke. You could sense this coming late last golf season when he had the best cumulative score between the final two majors. He didn't win either one, but was consistent and near the top of the leader board in both. Then he finished 2018 by winning the Tour Championship. All weekend long this past weekend, he was hanging around the top of the leader board, and then his tee shot on the 16th hole yesterday almost rolled into the cup, and that's when you knew — HOLY CRAP, THIS IS HAPPENING!

Tiger Woods is now three majors behind the great Jack Nicklaus. More importantly, we now have Tiger back on a regular basis to carry the summer months on our television screens. I have a few more thoughts and observations on Tiger's win this past weekend. here we go:

Contextualizing the length of time since Tiger last won the Masters
April 10, 2005 — prior to Sunday, that was the last time that Tiger Woods strolled off the course in Augusta as the Masters champion. There are probably many ways that you can personally measure exactly how long ago that was. For me, the measurements are largely hair and weight based, although my three now-college aged kids all being in first grade or kindergarten when Tiger last won the Masters is a little jarring. One "sports" way to give context to the length of the wait is quite ironic — before this week, the last time Tiger Woods had won the Masters in 2005 was the same weekend that LeBron James last missed the playoffs in the NBA. Now here we are in April 2019, and Tiger Woods wins the Masters again, and LeBron is out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005. So think about how long LeBron James was THE dominant force in the league — all those stats, all those Finals appearances — and that period of time is how long Tiger went in between Masters wins. Crazy.

The big winner other than Tiger — the business of golf
It's no secret that when Tiger Woods began his slide into golf oblivion, the sport as a whole suffered. It wasn't just television ratings sagging, but many golf courses and pro shops, built thanks to the opulence of Woods' meteoric rise, endured major business downturns. Woods reclaiming a spot of not just relevance, but greatness, is phenomenal news for anyone with even a tangential tie to the business of golf. On the course, Woods' comeback is great news for this era's star golfers, who will now get a chance to line up and beat a full-strength version of Woods in an attempt to cement THEIR legacies. For the Dustin Johnsons, Jordan Spieths, and Brooks Koepkas of the world, the only thing better for their profiles than winning is winning while being paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday at whatever major is happening that weekend. Creating stars provides the lifeblood of golf's future, and it's easier to create stars when a fully activated Woods is there to be taken down.

The big loser in Tiger's return to prominence — sportsbooks
The one area of the sporting world where, even during his downturn, Tiger Woods was shown a level of respect was in the various sportsbooks in Nevada, and eventually (with sports betting legalization) around the country. Tiger Woods is the Lakers or Cowboys of golf, where he has so many casual fans that bettors will back him unconditionally, even with a bad back and a DUI police video floating around on the internet. As a result, those casinos were cashing in on free money on Tiger bettors' losing for about a decade. Well, Sunday that golden goose had its head chopped off, and at one sportsbook, it happened in a big way!

On Tuesday, a bettor at a William Hill U.S. sportsbook at SLS Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada placed an $85,000 bet on Woods to win at 14-1 odds. It was the first bet ever placed by the customer at William Hill and will pay out $1.19 million, the largest single golf ticket in the company's history in the U.S.

"Pretty good first bet," William Hill U.S. director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told ESPN.
I doubt we're getting back to the days where Tiger was a slight favorite over the field — yes kids, there was a time where one side of the bet was Tiger, and on the other side of that bet, you'd get literally every other golfer — but there will be next to no value betting Tiger Woods moving forward. The casual bettors just came scurrying out of their hole like fire ants, and Tiger just kicked the anthill.

Sunday was a pretty cool father-son moment
Hey, you can say what you will about Tiger being a horrible husband — for the record, Tiger has pretty much admitted he was a horrible husband — and I know there are many fans who will never forgive him for his infidelity back in the 2000s, but Sunday was a pretty cool moment, if you're a father with any emotions. Think about it, for pretty much the entirety of their lives, Tiger's two kids have only experienced the "broken down mess" version of their dad on the course. On Sunday, Tiger's son Charlie got to strut down the human runway from the 18th green to the clubhouse like he, too, won the Masters. I don't care what anybody thinks about Tiger personally, that was so cool!

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast