Tiger’s Green Jacket
April 20, 2019
I can’t sleep. I’d get up and do something if I could but my back’s too sore. It hurts all the time. I’ll take another pain pill or two. I’ll take whatever’s necessary to quit hurting. I think my mind hurts more than my back. What I’ve got to do is quit thinking. This all started eleven years ago when they had to surgically rebuild my left knee. I came back in good form but my body was different and got worse after Elin found out about my girlfriends and chased me, swinging a golf club, to the car I woozily drove into a fire hydrant and a tree, hitting my head and spraining my neck. Suddenly, I became a national joke and felt like everyone was either laughing at me or staring. I know damn well they were. Maybe I was wrong to be young, rich, and famous, and often away from home and eager to accept female affection, and maybe you’d behave like me under the same circumstances.
No matter what I always focused on my two young kids but worried less about my marital problems and divorce as my body continued to crack. I injured my left Achilles heel and sprained my reconstructed knee, the pivot of a golf swing, and didn’t win for two years. I started rolling again in 2012 with three victories and five the following year but I strained my back and it became stiff and painful and I stopped winning for one year, two years, and had back surgery and then another back surgery and a third operation and I still can’t take the pain. I don’t care so much about golf anymore. I’m done. I just want to quit hurting. I need some rest. Four years after my last victory I tell doctors: all right. Let’s do what you recommend. Fuse my back. After surgery the pain’s worse and I take strong medications and don’t remember getting in my car and driving around my Florida neighborhood and pulling over and sleeping until the police wake me up.
Tiger’s more than done now, millions say. He’ll soon be dead. But I don’t think so. I embrace treatment for substance abuse and my back starts getting better and in a few months I can swing the club a little and eventually I start playing practice rounds and begin to feel it. I’m not done. I’m coming back. I shoot sixty-four the final day of the 2018 PGA and finish second, only two strokes back. Now I know I’m going to win again. I don’t know when but it’s happening soon. It’s happening this fall weekend at the Tour Championship. I dominate the field after three rounds, play conservatively the final day, and lift my first trophy in five years.
I’m happy but hungry. I want another major title. I’ve got to have one. It’s been almost eleven years since I hobbled around Torrey Pines on a ruined left knee and won the U.S. Open. I want my fifth green jacket at the Masters Tournament. I haven’t won it in fourteen years. Is it realistic to win again? I open with a seventy, two under par. That calms me and I shoot sixty-eight and sixty-seven and am tied for second two strokes behind Francesco Molinari and will be in the final group, a threesome starting early Sunday to beat the coming storm.
The fans are excited and on my side. I’m no longer Goliath or the man who strayed. I’m the wounded former champ, age forty-three, an underdog who doesn’t crack as Molinari hits a ball in the pond on the par three twelfth and I birdie the par fives over water, thirteen and fifteen, where Molinari clips a branch and lands in another pond, and then I almost ace the sixteenth, landing beyond and right of the hole and letting it funnel down to the iconic Sunday pin location where I tap in for a birdie. I know. So do the fans. I’m up by two and I’m going to win.
I get through seventeen with a par and hit a safe but short drive on the eighteenth. Ahead, Brooks Koepka, the muscular virtuoso who beat me in the PGA last year, is two back and has a good shot at birdie. If he makes it and I bogey we’ll have to have a playoff. That’s not part of what’s happening today. I hope to hell it isn’t. Brooksie misses his putt. All right. I play my second shot short and to the right of the green and pitch on and face a putt similar to his. Just be careful. Uh oh, I strike the ball firmly but it hits the hole and I’ve got less than two feet to victory. I knock it in and extend both arms, pumping my fists, and this is what I love, winning major tournaments and feeling excitement of fans around the green. I’ve long wanted my kids to see this in person instead of on film. I walk off the green and here comes my son for a hug and my daughter and mom and girlfriend. Can you believe it?