AUGUSTA, Ga. — They may never really understand all that their father has been through in recent years. How the most popular athlete on the planet had suffered a stunning fall from grace over infidelity issues and how many of his fans mocked him and his sponsors abandoned him.
They may never know how deeply their father feared his golfing career was over after enduring debilitating back pain that would require four surgeries. And they may also never know the extent of the doubts that surrounded him when he began competing again, and had the yips in his chipping and couldn’t find the fairway off the tee. Would he ever win a tournament again? Would he ever win a major? Certainly, he would never be Tiger Woods again.
What Sam and Charlie Woods will definitely remember and can cherish for a lifetime is running behind the 18th green at Augusta National on Sunday afternoon to embrace their father after Tiger Woods won his fifth green jacket. The triumphant scene offered a symbolism so fitting it nearly drove the 2019 Masters champion to tears.
Earl Woods, fresh off heart surgery, had made it to Augusta National that Masters Sunday in 1997 and the clip of a father embracing his son for whom he had predicted greatness remains one of the Masters iconic moments. After winning his first major championship in 11 years Sunday, Woods went “full circle” as he called it and hugged his son, Charlie, 10, and daughter, Sam, 11.
“It means the world to me,” Woods said, wearing another green jacket, “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. Just their infectiousness of happiness, you know. I was going through a tough time physically. There were a lot of times when I really couldn’t move. That in itself was 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.”
Considering what Woods has been through, the whole thing is pretty special, including his performance Sunday, when he shot a 2-under 70 to finish 13-under and claim a one-stroke victory over a trio of golfers. Third-round leader Francesco Molinari was two shots back.
Woods had his two kids at the British Open, where he briefly held the lead before finishing three strokes behind Molinari. His mother, Tida, and his girlfriend, Erica Herman, had been in Augusta all week, but Tiger convinced his children, who had never been to Augusta, to come up from Florida on Sunday and watch his final round.
“They were there at the British Open last year when I had the lead on that back nine and made a few mistakes and cost myself a chance to win the Open title,” Woods said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen to them twice. 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.”
It’s certainly a moment Woods won’t forget. He celebrated as if he’d never won a major before, pumping his fists to an adoring Augusta crowd that had treated him with indifference after his sex scandal in 2009 and 2010. If Woods was a disappointment then, he has become a model of resilience and recovery now, celebrated for rescuing a career that seemed over.
“I was very fortunate to be given another chance to do something that I love to do,” he said. “But more importantly I’ve been able to participate in my kids’ lives in a way that I couldn’t for a number of years. I always felt like I could do pretty much anything physically, but for a while there I couldn’t even walk.”
That’s why their moment Sunday was special. Until they embraced on the 18th green, golf had been the sport that had crippled their father. Now it’s the sport that has made him a conquering hero.
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