Boyette: Masters again tightens Woods' family bonds
Kultida Woods sat in the green club chair and leaned forward to hear her son, Tiger, address questions from the media in the interview room.
A few feet in front of her sat her grandchildren, Sam and Charlie.
A few minutes earlier, Woods had won his fifth Masters on a topsy-turvy day at Augusta National. Fourteen years after his last Augusta win – 5,117 days if you’re counting – and almost 11 years since his last major victory, Woods collected his 15th major triumph.
The famous moment of the 1997 Masters came when Woods hugged his father, Earl, behind the 18th green.
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Today, the money and the fame don’t matter to Woods anymore, if they ever did. He’s all about being the best father he can be these days, and to win in front of 11-year-old Sam and 10-year-old Charlie was a special moment.
“My dad’s no longer here, but my mom’s here, 22 years later, and I happen to win the tournament,” Woods said. “And then to have both Sam and Charlie here, they were there at the British Open last year when I had the lead on that back nine, and I made a few mistakes, cost myself a chance to win the Open title.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice, and so for them to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that’s something they will never forget.”
Woods’ mother is a staple at Augusta. She was wearing black slacks and a red blouse, her son’s favorite colors, and she beamed with pride as he patiently answered questions. When he talked about everyone on the PGA Tour now working out, “even Phil (Mickelson),” she laughed with everyone else.
Francesco Molinari started the day with the 54-hole lead, two clear of Woods and Tony Finau. Major champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen all were in shouting distance as golf fans and tournament patrons enjoyed “Brunch at Augusta” thanks to tee times being moved up to avoid potential bad weather.
As Woods made the turn Sunday, the flow of patrons coming through was incredible. White, black, young, old, they all had one thing in common: they were here to witness history.
Molinari and Woods arrived at the 12th hole exactly where they started the day. But Molinari, who had been so steady in holding Woods off at Carnoustie last summer, blinked first. His tee shot hit the bank and rolled into Rae’s Creek.
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Woods remained calm, played his tee shot to the safe side and hit the green. When Molinari couldn’t get up and down for bogey, Woods made his par and it was game on.
At different points Sunday, six golfers held a piece of the lead. Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka joined Molinari and Woods at the top.
None had the wisdom and experience of Woods. He made birdies on the incoming par-5s, and when he stiffed his tee shot at the 16th, the patrons knew that it was game over.
When Woods tapped in for bogey at 18 to win by one, he let out a yell for the ages. Fans had gathered all over the first tee, clubhouse and 18th green areas to glimpse a moment in history.
The white-jacketed waiters and busboys gathered along the rope line near the big oak tree, just like they did in 1997 when Woods became the first minority golfer to win the Masters.
A lot has changed for Woods since he was that 21-year-old kid. He’s now 43, and a physical miracle after four back surgeries and four knee operations.
As he made his way from the 18th green to the scoring area, the patrons chanted “Tiger” over and over to go along with their fist pumps. Thirty minutes later, as they flowed to the parking lots, they were still chanting his name.
Golf historians and sports fans will debate where this week ranks in the pantheon of great golf moments. Suffice it to say that this one will be replayed as long as there are DVRs and television sets.
Jack Nicklaus has always been the gold standard at Augusta, and he was quick to weigh in from the Bahamas as Woods’ victory became reality.
“A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger,” he said. “I am so happy for him and for the game of golf. This is just fantastic.”
Just like Nicklaus famously hugged his caddie and son, Jackie, after the last hole in 1986, Woods embraced his mother, children, girlfriend Erica Herman and others behind the 18th green Sunday.
But this victory was for Sam and Charlie.
“It means the world to me. Their love and their support, I just can’t say enough how much that meant to me throughout my struggles when I really just had a hard time moving around,” Woods said. “Just their infectiousness of happiness; you know, I was going through a tough time physically. There was a lot of times when I really couldn’t move, and so that in itself is difficult.
“But 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.”