The Sunday we spent at Augusta was less about seeing the action and more about hearing the roars.
For the first time since 2005, Tiger Woods is back in a green jacket and standing as the Masters champion for the fifth time in his career.
It is his 15th major championship and the first since he won the U.S. Open on a broken leg at Torrey Pines in 2008. The journey to the 15th has been a long road for Woods, and many thought he would never get back here, especially not in this fashion.
“I had serious doubts after what transpired a couple years ago. I could barely walk. I couldn’t sit. Couldn’t lay down. I really couldn’t do much of anything,” Woods said. “To have the opportunity to come back like this, you know, it is probably one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had for sure because of it.”
Woods had never won any of his previous 14 majors when trailing heading into the final round. He did on Sunday in Augusta.
And it was thrilling to witness.
“It’s ironic that I’m given a chance to play golf again,” Woods said. “And lo and behold, I won a tournament coming from behind, which I had not done for the first 14. So it’s just amazing.”
The day started earlier than expected as severe weather was expected in the area. Woods was in the final group alongside the leader Franciso Molinari, who sat at -13 after the third round, and Tony Finau who was tied with Woods at -11.
At the fourth hole, we couldn’t see much of what was going on but could hear the groan from the crowd as Woods dropped back a shot after failing to reach the green on the par 3.
At the fifth hole, once again it was a groan from the crowd as Woods made bogey on the hole for the fourth straight day.
It looked as though Molinari, with pars on the first six holes, would out-duel Woods for another major just as he did last year at British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland.
The crowd seemed a bit deflated. We walked from the sixth hole to the 13th to sit in the grandstands and watch as the leaders tried to navigate the last hole of Amen Corner. And we listened.
The first roar came across the course at the seventh hole. Moments later the leaderboard changed to show Woods had made birdie and Molinari had made bogey. Suddenly, the lead had fallen to just one.
When the card showing the scores flipped into place the grandstands at 13 erupted. It showcased the two types of roars at Augusta on Sunday, the ones at the hole Woods was on, and the collective one around the course when the leaderboard was updated. Molinari and Woods each birdied the eighth hole.
The person updating the scoreboard by hand where we sat at 13 clearly enjoyed adding suspense to the situation as he changed Molinari to -13, which caused a groan from the grandstands. Moments later, the card revealed Woods was at -12, causing yet another roar from around the course.
At a few of the holes, Woods said he thought back to some advice his late dad Earl had given him.
“Especially the one on nine, was just putt to the picture, that’s it. Just putt to the picture,” Woods said. “That’s what he always taught me to do, and that’s what I just kept telling myself out there, just putt to the picture.”
The next few holes didn’t provide much in the way of roars or groans.
Then the 12th hole happened.
It was the spot where the entire tournament changed for both Woods, Molinari and a slew of others trying to chase down the leaders.
Molinari’s tee shot on 12 went into the water, and he ended up with a critical double bogey to drop down to -11, tied with Woods for the lead.
“Yeah, the mistake Francesco (Molinari) made there let a lot of guys back into the tournament, myself included,” Woods said. “There were so many different scenarios that could have happened after 12. It could have gone so many different ways, and I just kept saying, just keep hanging in there until the last couple holes and we’ll see where we are. Just keep hanging in there.”
Woods did hang in there. At 13, we watched as his putt for eagle just barely missed. He and Molinari each birdied the 13th, and the energy in the crowd was starting to shift into believing that the impossible was indeed going to happen. From there we found our way to the grandstands at 15 — with a view of 16 as well — to see if Woods could put the finishing touches on his comeback.
For the third straight day, Woods made birdie on 15. It was a big swing as Molinari made yet another double bogey after his ball found the water once again. This gave Woods a one-stroke lead over Brooks Koepka in the group ahead of him with three to play.
At 16, Woods hit the shot that may very well define his round. He hit it high on the green, and it started to roll back toward the hole. It had shades of Jack Nicklaus in the 1986 Masters and Woods’s chip-in on the same hole the last time he captured the green jacket in 2005. The view from the 15th grandstand showed the ball almost going inside the hole before settling within a few feet.
“I birdied 15 with two good shots in there, and almost whooped it at 16,” Woods said. “I kept telling myself on 17, that tee shot, I said, I’ve been in this position before. I had a two‑shot lead with DiMarco and went bogey, bogey. Let’s go ahead and pipe this ball right down the middle. Hit a little flat squeezer out there, and I did. I just smoked it.”
At 18, Woods hit another tee shot in play. The entire crowd had converged on the final hole to watch. It then became a waiting game. There was no chance of seeing those final strokes through the waves of people spreading out from the green.
You just had to listen for the roar. It was a bit delayed, but the moment finally came when he tapped in for bogey to finish one stroke ahead of Kopeka and a pair of others.
He walked off the 18th green and embraced his kids just as his dad embraced him at his first Masters win in 1997.
“I’ve been very blessed to have two great kids,” Woods said. “Just to have them there, and then now to have them see their Pops win, just like my Pops saw me win here, it’s pretty special.”
The final roar was simply chants of “Tiger” filling the air. He had finally won at Augusta again.
“Tiger, welcome back,” the moderator said as Woods entered the press conference. “Or, should I say, more appropriately, welcome home.”