Over the last decade of my golf fandom, I have always had an underlying sense of emptiness. I’ve spent years secretly wishing that I could have been five years older, that I could have fully appreciated what my childhood hero accomplished in his prime.
I was born in December 1993. I was three years old when Tiger won the ’97 Masters, six when he won the ’00 U.S. Open at Pebble, seven when he completed the Tiger Slam, and 14 when he hobbled to victory on a torn ACL at Torrey Pines.
Still, Tiger was my idol. He was the reason I owned a red Nike polo. The reason I begged my parents for a Scotty Cameron blade putter. The reason I rushed home from school in early February to watch golf during the West Coast swing.
But I never really saw him at his best. Three quarters of his career PGA Tour victories and 86% of his major championship wins happened before I turned 14. I vaguely remember him winning the PGA at Medinah in 2006, but I truly had only the 2008 U.S. Open to hold onto. My hero garnered nearly all of his career accolades before I was old enough to relish the moments fully.
Since Tiger’s last major championship victory, I started and finished high school, started and finished college, became old enough to drive, became old enough to vote, became old enough to drink, started writing for The Fried Egg, and spent thousands of hours watching and playing golf. I learned to love following players like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Brooks Koepka.
Still, I felt regret every time Tiger fell short of the mountain top. The 2009 PGA Championship was crushing. So was the 2013 Masters. So was the 2018 Open. Time and again, Tiger couldn’t quite achieve what I most wanted to see him achieve.
A dirty secret among Tiger fanboys is that many of us don’t have actual experiences to prop up our idolatry. Anyone born after 1991 is subject to investigation. In Tiger’s prime, we were probably both too young and too dumb to appreciate what was going on. We loved watching him play when we were kids, but as twentysomethings, we didn’t necessarily have the memories to support our fandom.
April 14, 2019, will be a day I will never forget. It was filled with angst, adventure, and consequence. I wondered constantly if it would be another day of disappointment or one of triumph. I lived and died with every shot, rooted against players I normally root for, and could hardly believe it when Tiger sunk that final putt. It was a day for the younger fanboys. A day we can hang our hats on and tell stories about for years to come.
I’ll always remember Tiger closing the gap after Francesco Molinari’s water ball on 12. I’ll always remember Tiger’s near ace on 16 and how the roar caused Brooks Koepka to back off his tee shot on 17. Above all, I’ll never forget Tiger’s enthusiasm on 18 and his embrace with his son.
I never knew if I would have any vivid memories of Tiger Woods winning a major championship.
A comeback for the ages. #themasters pic.twitter.com/Errkvqh4He
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 14, 2019