Emotional Tiger relives Masters victory with Nantz

  • Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
  • Covered golf for more than 20 years
  • Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University

There was no final round of the Masters on Sunday, but there was a replay on CBS-TV of Tiger Woods’ comeback victory a year ago at Augusta National.

And as it played out, CBS’ Jim Nantz interviewed Woods at various points before, during and after the round, with the five-time Masters winning getting choked up as he described in great deal the celebratory scene behind the 18th green that he had with his kids, Charlie and Samantha, his mother, Tida, and girlfriend, Erica.

There was also a somber tone to Woods at times as he was interviewed from his South Florida home. He acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic that has the world on hold “has been a shock to all of us. We know it’s still going to continue to get worse … it’s a very difficult situation, a very difficult time, a unique time in history.”

Woods, 44, said he hated the idea that he is holding onto the green jacket longer because of the serious issue that confronts the world and prevented all sports, including golf, from continuing. He also said he’d have been ready to go if the tournament had been played as scheduled.

“Yes, I would have been good to go,” Woods said. “Mind and body were coming together … I was not my normal self [earlier in the week], and all of my normal pre-major championship self. I’m used to having this four times a year. I kind of get in that mode. And it started happening again.

“But year, I was out practicing and subconsciously getting ready; I didn’t realize I was getting ready. I just wanted to go out there, have some fun, hit some balls and get out of the house. But it’s amazing. I’ve been doing it for so long that things were starting to come together; I was starting to peak. We try to peak four times a year; and I know that the tournament’s been postponed, not until November — but for some reason, I was still peaking anyway.”

Here are some highlights from the Nantz interview:

  • Woods played it safe at the par-3 12th after Francesco Molinari found Rae’s Creek with his tee shot, giving him the big opening. But Woods said he had a lot of work to do with his putts and expected Molinari to get up and down for bogey.

“I knew I hit it just perfect, and we had a long way to go,” Woods said. “Just because I hit it there, I could still 3-putt, Fran could get up and down, and it’s a moot point. Now, I’m still 2 back. Now I have the ability to at least knock off one shot here. Just make sure I get it done, and Fran still made bogey there, and I could still be 1 back.

“Well, I’m still 2 back. Now, I’m expecting him to try and get this up-and-down; I have to two-putt, and then I have momentum going to the 13th hole and the 13th tee, still being 1 back. So that’s the scenario that I’m playing out in my head; and me being prepared to be 1 down still, even if I execute my putts correctly; and expecting Fran to make that ’cause he’s made everything for the past three days, and it shouldn’t be a shocker if he makes another one.”

  • When Woods hit his tee shot at the par-3 16th within 3 feet, setting up a birdie putt that would give him a 2-shot lead, he did not realize how close the ball was to the hole.

“From the tee you can’t see this part, so I had no idea how close it is,” he said. “But from the roar and from how everyone’s yelling and screaming, I figured it’s close, but I don’t know how close ’cause the lip of that bunker obscures the view from the tee. So I don’t know exactly how close it is until I walk around the lake there, and — be able to see the golf ball next to the hole.”

  • As close as the ball came to going in at the 16th, Nantz asked Woods about how many hole-in-ones he’s had. And Woods told the story of how he had gone the prime of his career without making any. He has three career aces on the PGA Tour, the last in 1998.

“I now have 20,” Woods said of his overall total. “I had 19 holes-in-one, all pre-2000; I hadn’t made one since 2000. And so the best part of my career, the best golf I’ve ever played, I never made a hole-in-one — until a couple winters ago, I was out playing with Freddie [Couples] and my son [Charlie] and [friend] Rob [McNamara] his friend out in Palm Springs, right before Thanksgiving [of 2018]. And I ended up making a hole-in-one out there.”

That ace at the Madison Club came a few days before Woods played Phil Mickelson in their Las Vegas match.

  • As close as the putt was at 16, Woods did not consider it a gimme.

“I was a bit nervous about this putt,” he said. “I knew it was left-center all day, but I just wanted to get a little confirmation. So I called [caddie] Joey [LaCava] in there, and he looked at me like, ‘What the hell are you doing? It’s a left-center putt.’ And I looked at him with a stern eye like, ‘Just read the putt.’ And I just got committed to, again, left-center; make sure that I put a lot of right hand in this putt, make sure that toe releases, I release the hell out of it. And I did, and it’s such a good feeling when I put a lot of right hand into a putt and release it.”

  • On what he remembers about holing the final putt and the aftermath:

“Well, the funny part about the whole thing is — I don’t remember screaming. I don’t remember putting my arms up, and I don’t remember yelling. That’s one of those kind of black-out moments. There’s certain celebrations throughout my career that I’ve made putts or celebrated; I just don’t recall it. I guess I’m so locked into the moment.

“What I do remember is my eyes coming back down and seeing people in front of me. I do remember that; I remember all the arms up. But as far as me celebrating, I don’t remember that part. I remember — ‘OK, let’s get to Fran and his caddie and Tony [Finau] and his caddy,’ and then shook their hands and — ‘Where the hell’s Joey? I need Joey.’ And I finally found Joey and said, ‘We did it.’ ‘Cause we did, we did it together. Joey was there helping me go to soccer games when I couldn’t drive a car. He came down here as a friend and helped try and nurse me back to health. He was there in those low times.”

  • On the celebration with his family after the round:

“Surreal,” he said. “To see my son Charlie there, open arms, come rushing at me and jump in my arms. … And that’s when the emotions just came flooding out. And I started crying. And Charlie was squeezing me, and kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter. And then I looked at him, squeezed him again. Then my mom’s there and she’s patting me on my back; and kept saying she’s so proud of me, my dad would be so proud if he were here. She said, ‘I love you,’ and I said, ‘I love you too, Mom.’ And then there’s Sam — Sam is — she doesn’t like the spotlight; she can’t stand it. So when we hugged, I turned her away from everybody and made sure that she was sheltered. And we just had a little moment together. … And she just squeezed harder, and didn’t have to say anything. And — yeah, now you’re starting to get me choked up.”

And Woods again acknowledged how odd the situation is at this time.

“This is not the way I wanted to have the jacket for a longer period of time,” he said. “Come Masters Tuesday, after our Champions Dinner, we put our jackets back up in our lockers, and the next person who gets to take it off the grounds is the champion that particular week. So hopefully we’ll have it in November, and we’ll be able to compete for it.”

The Masters has been rescheduled for Nov. 12-15.

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