The pretournament coverage focused on Augusta National Golf Club as the star of the show as much as the golfers themselves at the 2019 Masters. That changed in a big way on Sunday.
The victory by 43-year-old Tiger Woods is the stuff of legend. After an 11-year drought in winning one of golf’s majors, Woods captured the Masters for the first time in 14 years, the longest stretch between victories at Augusta for any player ever.
The triumph is wildly popular among golf fans and beyond as Woods is an international celebrity. His victory is being compared to great comebacks of all time, with commentators citing the likes of Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.
In reality, the Woods story may have its closest parallel in the golf world itself in the story of another famous player, the late Ben Hogan.
PGA.com offers a short version of the Hogan story:
“On Jan. 6, 1950, Hogan returned to competitive golf at the Los Angeles Open, 11 months after a near-fatal car accident.
“On Feb. 2, 1949, Hogan and his wife, Valerie, narrowly survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus in Texas. In a successful attempt to save his wife's life by throwing himself in front of her, Hogan likely also saved his own life since the steering column punctured the driver's seat.
“Hogan, 36 at the time, suffered a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots. He suffered lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations.
“Fifty-nine days after the accident, Hogan was out of the hospital and by November of that year, he resumed golf activities.
“In that L.A. Open return, Hogan was outstanding, eventually losing a playoff to Sam Snead.
“Post-accident, Hogan won 11 more times on the PGA Tour, including six of his nine major championships.”
Tiger Woods has overcome major physical obstacles also. Most notable, he had four back surgeries, including spinal fusion. Woods himself wondered would he ever be able to play golf again, much less at the level of competition in major tournaments. Yet he made a successful return to the game and won a key victory late in 2018, but nothing compares to the triumph on Sunday at Augusta National.
The win has renewed talk of Woods overtaking Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 major titles. He has 15 and appears ready to challenge for more. Perhaps that is his goal. But even if he does not win again in any event, Sunday completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by the player having done more than any other in spreading the popularity of golf around the world and, in particular, among young people holding the future of the game.