Reimer: Tiger's Masters win finally allows second half of his career to be defined by more than perverted tales of infidelity

Alex Reimer
April 15, 2019 - 10:41 am

As a sports fan in his mid-20s, my most vivid memory of Tiger Woods isn’t him hugging his father after his first Masters win, but rather backing his Cadillac Escalade into a tree. My Tiger Woods was on the cover of the New York Post more consecutive times than 9/11, with tawdry details of his extramarital affairs receiving more breathless coverage than anything the Kardashian sisters have ever been involved with.

For the entirety of my adult life, Woods has alternated between laughingstock and sad. The salacious details of his sexcapades in Perkins parking lots induced tears of laughter, whereas his ongoing back problems made the most dominant athlete of his generation look washed up and sad. The low point was probably two years ago, when police found a bleary-eyed Woods sleeping in his car with the engine running in the wee hours of the morning. He took a concoction of pain medication that left him knocked out on the side of the road.

Over the last decade, Woods has recorded more rehab visits than Major victories. Though that is still the case, his miraculous Masters win closes the gap. It also provides a glimpse into just how superior Woods was when he was at his apex. It felt like 1999 on Sunday, with Tiger’s mock turtleneck completing the apparent time warp.  

In some respects, Woods’ 15th Major victory might be his finest. It was the first time he had ever come from behind in the final round to win a major tournament, as he started the day two strokes off the lead. But Woods made up the ground, shooting two-under-par in his final round. Francesco Molinari, who entered the day with the aforementioned two-stroke advantage, collapsed and found water twice on the back nine. Tony Finau and 25-year-old Xander Schauffele were also in the hunt, but couldn’t keep up. Woods took the lead after birdying the 15th hole and never looked back. His birdie on the 16th increased his lead to two strokes and sealed his win –– especially considering Brooks Koepka missed a very makable putt on 17. It allowed Tiger to take his two-stroke lead to the 18th hole, which he wound up bogeying. 

This is not a comeback story straight out of a Disney studio, because all of Tiger’s off-course trials were self-inflicted. He also, according to reports, routinely treated those under him poorly. Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian’s unauthorized biography, Tiger, details many of his transgressions. 

And yet, seemingly the entire gallery at Augusta was on its feet Sunday, with spectators 12 rows deep showering Woods with adulation. It speaks to our love for nostalgia and greatness. 

But Woods offered more than old memories Sunday, as evidenced by his post-victory embraces of his 10-year-old son, Charlie Axel, and his 11-year-old daughter, Sam Alexis. They weren’t alive when their father won his last Masters in 2005. Their presence was a reminder how much life has changed since Tiger last donned the Green Jacket. The ruse of the perfect athlete and high-strung competitor has been shattered, replaced with the image of a deeply flawed individual who’s perhaps been humiliated more than any high-profile athlete before him.

Though few of us can empathize with Tiger, his fall makes him sympathetic. The most intimate details of his sex life were published for the world to see, including steamy text exchanges and tales of kinky sex. Tiger was unfaithful, but did not break any laws. Two adults performing consensual acts with each other is not worth our collective outrage, no matter how icky or untoward. 

Even if Tiger never captures another Major, the latest chapter of his life is no longer defined by that fateful Thanksgiving night, when Elin Nordegren chased him out of their home with a golf club. It’s now defined by the events of Sunday. 

It was a treat to witness. 

Related: Hannable: Sunday showed Tiger Woods, not Tom Brady or anyone else, is most compelling athlete of this generation