Will Augusta’s beautiful fortress succumb to a roaring Tiger once again?

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In April 2005, the scene of Tiger Wood’s most recent fitting into the famous Green Jacket, the four-time Masters winner produced an unprecedented flourish of skill and showmanship and stunned the sporting world. Sunday evening at Augusta National providing the perfect setting, Tiger landed a knockout blow by chipping in on the 16th green from a seemingly impossible angle to effectively crush Chis DiMarco’s bid for a first major. However, this wasn’t just a great chip-in during the suffocating pressure of Sunday at the Masters, this was an expression of what it was to be Tiger Woods back then. Famously rang-in by CBS announcer Verne Lundquist:

“Here it comes…Oh, my, goodness!…OH, WOW! In your life have you ever seen anything like that?”

The simple truth was: no, nobody had ever witnessed anything quite like Tiger. Augusta has an illustrious history as the permanent home of golf’s most prestigious major, providing the idyllic backdrop for some of golf’s most defining moments and Tiger added to that highlight reel in epic fashion as only he knew how. Other unforgettable episodes inside the ropes of Augusta include Jack Nicklaus’s double-breaking 18-footer on the 16th in 1986 which announced his return to the forefront of the game with a record sixth Masters title, having been previously written off by sceptics due to injury and his age of 46. Gene Sarazen hit the shot “heard around the world” back in 1935,  defying logic to score an albatross at the par-five 15th. Great moments undoubtedly, however, they don’t stand quite as tall in the pantheon of memorable Masters moments as Woods’ wonderful bit of wedged wizardry.

Jack Nicklaus' famous putt on the 16th helped him claim a record sixth Masters.

Jack Nicklaus’ famous putt on the 16th helped him claim a record sixth Masters.

Over-hitting his tee-shot on the 16th, Woods’ used his high-powered ability to read a golf course’s subtle undulations to engineer a shot deeply etched into the memory of anyone who witnessed it; be it via a TV-screen at 11pm on a Sunday night when I should have been in bed for school on Monday or crowded round the roaring Tiger in a cacophony of hysteria at golf’s most iconic venue. As with every shot, Woods paid close attention. In his prime, Woods was used to obliterating fields of top-quality players and lofting the most lucrative titles on a weekly basis. However, one feels the challenge he relished the most was with the course he was attempting to conquer. Having won the Masters three times up to this stage, (1997,2001, 2002) Woods had more than an educated knowledge of Augusta but the beauty of the course is in its complexity. The difficulty of the rolling terrain is emphasised with pressure. A golfer’s best tool for attack is his mind. Woods possessed the most finely-tuned mental game ever witnessed. Ten shots in the lead or ten shots behind, he always had the aura of someone who was in control. He had an immense threshold for adversity whilst on the course, frustrating fellow competitors by erupting back into contention after not featuring. Coming to the 16th green on this particular Sunday evening represented the sternest examination of his mental skills. Trailing DiMarco by one-shot, bogeying was simply not an option for the world number one; and neither was a par. Reading the sloping green with imperturbable concentration, Woods found his route. He hit his shot left of the pin into the bank, knowing it would take a 90-degree turn to the hole. Not hoping, knowing.

Which is exactly what happened.

The ball trickled with determination towards the cup, tracking the hole like a wolf tracks its prey. The most astounding moment was yet to come. When the ball reached the hole, it hung precariously on the edge of the hole as if it were teasing. Then, in an instant seared into every fan’s memory, Tiger’s ball dropped in prompting a wave of celebrations. It was as if Tiger controlled the ball with his eyes, glaring at while it took the desire route and just as it was about to disappear, Tiger told it to hang on for a second and show everyone the Nike logo, incidentally a tick, to portray Tiger’s dominance and unique ability to better himself time and time again. (Scroll down for clip of the shot)

Tiger himself was modest in retrospect after he had won the tournament: “”I was just trying to throw the ball up there on the hill and let it feed down there and hopefully have a makeable putt. All of a sudden, it looked really good, and it looked like how could it not go in, and how did it not go in, and all of a sudden it went in.” His humble opinion does not stand well with this viewer. Something tells me he knew it was the time and place to produce something magical and remain on people’s lips for years.

Enigmatic as he is brilliant, Tiger somehow hasn’t dawned the green jacket since that fateful Sunday but this week seems a good bet for the World Number One. He has deposed Rory McIlroy at the summit of world golf after winning three times in the opening three months of the season. His preparation for the latest Augusta challenge has been exemplary. He has that look in his eye once again, he has the persona of someone who once again has things firmly under his control; on and off the course. Clinching three big championships; The Farmer Insurance Open, The Cadillac Championship which is part of the World Golf Championships and the Arnold Palmer Invitational for an incredible 8th time has put Tiger where wants to be; on top.

Tiger Woods Bite

Tiger has his bite back after three big victories in 2013.

Having re-captured his throne and shown more than glimpses of his old self, the Masters is the perfect platform to re-launch his bid takeover Jack Nicklaus’ 18-major haul. Tiger is on 14, which means he needs to win five more to eclipse Jack. Tiger’s career achievements are breathtaking but he has his sights firmly set on Nicklaus’s record. He craves it. Just like he craved being the best golfer in the world when he was a boy and now as man slowly creeping up on 40, he knows time is no longer on his side to settle once and for all the long-standing debate of who is better: Tiger or Nicklaus? Reaching 19 majors would put that to bed and starting with a first Masters jacket in eight years and a first major in five is Tiger’s gateway to ultimate, unanswerable authority.

Clip of Tiger Woods’ shot- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2GzxON2j1I

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About Matt Gault

Matt is a long-term These Football Times writer and co-author of A Tale of One City, Football's Fleeting Fraternity, The Academy Way and Masterminds. He supports Manchester United but also follows the fortunes of FK Qarabag in Azerbaijan. Based in Belfast, he is interested in the relationship between politics and football and rebellious footballers. Has been featured on The Guardian, FourFourTwo, WorldSoccer.com, BBC, Daily Mail and Huffington Post. He is also the Editor of SquareEyed.tv (http://www.squareeyed.tv/), covering the world of movies, TV and culture. Follow SquareEyed on Twitter @SquareEyed_tv and like us on Facebook! Follow Matt on Twitter @MattGault11
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