By Zach Naidu
The second round of the 2018 Masters saw the tournaments’ highest TV ratings in five years. Going into the tournament, Tiger Woods — the former number one ranked golfer, 11-time PGA Player of the Year, 14-time major championship winner, and 79-time PGA tournament winner — had consecutive top five finishes and showed flashes of his 2000s self. Las Vegas odds had him as the favorite for the tournament, and after an up and down 73 in the first round, Tiger Woods was in the hunt in Augusta, Georgia for the first time in a very long time. He was seven shots back after round one – it was a sizeable deficit, but it was nothing the greatest golfer in the world couldn’t handle.
Unfortunately, Woods would not be able to live up to the unreasonably high hype this week. A bogey on his first hole of the second round, followed by a double bogey four holes later knocked him further behind the leader and he wasn’t able to keep within striking distance. By Sunday morning, Tiger was just additional entertainment and a warmup for Justin Reed’s final round. He finished strong in the final round, carding a three-under-par 69 in what was otherwise an underwhelming showing. The painful part is many of us who have been watching Tiger since he was the world number one have come to hope for what we had at one time expected – excellence, precision, utter domination of the competition.
Records aside, Tiger Woods is the most talented golfer the world has seen. He won 14 major championships in 11 years. He was rocked by scandal and suffered major injuries in the prime of his career a decade ago. If Woods’ body had held up and he had been able to be as steadily competitive as he was in the first half of his career, he’d have upwards of 20 major championships – well past Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
As tough as it may be to admit, Tiger’s fans are living in the past – we yearn for those full body fist pumps while he’s wearing red on Sunday and the stakes are highest. We just want one more moment like on the 16th green at the 2005 Masters, or his one-legged 2008 U.S. Open triumph over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines. Tiger made watching a putt in golf as exciting as a touchdown, alley-oop or home run. The golfer’s sheer brilliance amazed the occasional golf watcher and turned them into a regular. Tiger captivated the entire sports world for more than a decade, and we all refuse to let him go. Why else would we care more about the player tied for 32nd place than the one two shots off the lead?
There are still three majors to go in the 2018 season, and Tiger’s strong finish at the Masters lends reason for optimism. Hopefully we will get to see one of those signature fist pumps from the man in red.
Contact Zach Naidu at znaidu ‘at’ stanford.edu.