Masters Moment #3: Tiger Hits Flagstick 2013
In the 1990’s Tiger Woods roundhouse kicked his way onto the scene, hitting the ball straighter and longer than anyone thought a normal human could. Combine that with a sick iron game and clutch putting, and we knew we had something different.
From that point on he has single-handedly transformed the white-bread game into what it is today – a young, popular sport (yes, sport), accessible to everyone. At first, this seemed like a great thing. Young golfers worldwide all begged their parents for a black Nike hat or a red golf shirt. He was the biggest factor in making the game as popular as it is today. All good, right? Not so fast.
For the last decade, Tiger’s career has been defined by something different: the number 18. Virtually the only record that Tiger woods does not currently hold is the mark for the most majors won, which is held by Jack Nicklaus. If you’re not a complete clown, you know that Tiger Woods is better than Jack ever was, but without getting to 18 majors there will always remain naysayers. It is truly his final conquest.
During the 2000’s, nobody doubted if he would get there, it was more a matter of when he would get there. I mean, in 2000, the guy won 3 of the 4 majors. Who does that? He had his Buick Rendezvous on cruise control on his way to reach Jack’s previously unattainable number.
Even though Tiger has maintained a high level of play since 2008 – winning tournaments, FedEx Cups and Player of the Year Awards along the way – he still has only 14 majors. And ever since his personal infidelities became public information in 2009, smearing his then squeaky-clean image, he has not won a single major.
Fast forward to 2013. Those kids we were talking about earlier? Now they’re Tiger’s competitors. Well-rounded athletic specimens like Dustin Johnson (who had hair on his stones at age 7) are now Tiger’s opponents. Other players like Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson consistently dwarf Tiger’s drives by 20, 30, even 50 yards. Remember how Tiger popularized the game and brought it to a worldwide audience? Backfire.
Don’t get me wrong – since 2008, he has had a few decent chances of winning a major, but no wins. His best opportunity, however, was last year at the Masters.
On Thursday at Augusta in Spring of 2013, Tiger looked solid, posting a 2-under 70, leaving him off the first page of the leader board, but very much alive. Friday is when the interesting shit went down.
On the par-5 15th hole, Tiger lined up his 87 yard approach shot over the water. He hit a very accurate shot. So accurate, in fact, that it hit the flagstick, sending it rolling back off the green into the water. The idea of hitting a shot that good is pretty foreign to me, but you have to assume Tiger was bummed at such an unlucky break, right? But that was just the beginning. Tiger proceeded to drop his ball from the same general area and hit what seemed to be the exact shot again, this time missing the pin a few yards short. He would make his putt and walk away with a bogey 6.
It wasn’t until Saturday morning that we found out that the rules judges reviewed his drop and deemed it illegal since he actually dropped the ball 2 yards further from the flag. On top of his unlucky water penalty, we was assessed an additional 2 strokes, resulting in a second round 73.
Tiger went on to post 70’s on Saturday and Sunday, resulting in a T4 finish, exactly 4 shots back of winner Adam Scott.
Now bear with me for a second here. If Tiger doesn’t hit that stick on Friday, he makes is birdie putt saving him two strokes. Also, the rules judges would not have penalized Tiger, saving him an additional two strokes. Now if my math is correct, that puts Tiger at -9 for the tournament. And even though Tiger admits to purposely moving the ball further from the pin on Friday, video and picture evidence shows that he was almost in the identical place of his initial shot.
For true Tiger fans across the world, we look at this Masters as what could have been a turning point for him. And sure, we will never know for certain, but I like to think Tiger would have pulled out a win last year had it not been for that one fateful shot on the 8th hole. And maybe that would have sparked a hot streak for Tiger. Maybe he would be at 18 majors by now. We will never know, but it would be the ultimate letdown if Tiger never gets to that career-defining number.