He gets 15th Major, 81st Tour victory . . .
The ovation began as soon as Tiger holed out his final putt and sealed the deal for his 15th victory in a Major. It didn't conclude until he disappeared into the ground floor entrance to the clubhouse en route to signing his scorecard for his 81st PGA Tour victory. It may have been the longest continuous celebration in golf history. And who knows how long it will be before the accolades begin to wane? A day . . . a week . . . a month?
The sight of Tiger Woods coming full circle and winning The Masters when so many 'experts' were so sure he couldn't, will remain in our hearts and minds for a very long time. As he strode down the fairways of the last four or five holes, after Molinari plunked one in the water and Tiger knew he had Francesco reeled in, the intensity etched in his face was unmistakable. The laughing, the grinning, the body language that had crept into his repertoire in recent months was gone. This was vintage Tiger. The Tiger who had terrified his foes for so many years before his fall from grace, and then his bouts with the problems resulting from a body that had let him down.
The observations of the TV analysts as Tiger's trio trudged toward the finish, before his final putt for bogey put a cap on a 13-under-par performance, put it all in perspective.
Jim Nantz: "There's no doubt it will rank as one of the greatest moments the sport has ever seen."
Ian Baker-Finch, after Tiger stiffed an 8 iron to the 17th green: "It's a special moment for golf . . . for everybody. It's been a long journey."
Add Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley: "It's been an epic Sunday here at The Masters."
And Tiger Woods himself: "When I tapped the putt in I don't know what I did. I know I screamed."
And scream, he did. Many times. Then he hugged everybody in sight - his mother, his kids, several other women, a bunch of guys in green jackets, and just before he reached the clubhouse, a coterie of his fellow competitors. He even made a departure from his previous habit of non-physical interaction with his fans, actually slapping hands with many on his way to the scorer's room.
Tiger took home - to Jupiter - $2.07 million, and his leading career earnings figure jumped to $118,309,570. In fact, eight of the players who finished in the top 18 yesterday (Tiger, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott), are also in the top 21 on the all-time earnings list. Mickelson, who tied for 18th, is second behind Tiger all-time with $90,467,104.
The questions remaining are simple: Will Tiger win twice more and pass Sam Snead's record of 82 victories? Will he close in on - or pass - the 18 Majors won by Jack Nicklaus? Did Sunday's TV ratings break any records?
In any event, the sport has reached new heights due to the incredible determination of one player, and it will be intriguing for millions as we fantasize about what comes next.