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I am not ashamed to admit it — I watch golf sometimes. I can only take it in small doses, and only when no other sport is on. But I enjoy watching Sunday golf, the final round of most of the tournaments. Plus, it can sometimes lead me into my Sunday nap.
I first started watching golf when I was about 14 years old. I attempted to golf around that age, and I was terrible at it. I couldn’t get my swing right. I also had clubs that were way too short for me, because I am very tall.
Ever since my small sample of golf experience, I have always respected the men and women who are actually good at it. That is the reason I can stand to watch golf. I know how hard it is, and those people on my screen are the best in the world.
I will always remember one tournament in particular. Little did I know then that this tournament would be the end of an era, or at least the start of a drought for the greatest golfer in the world.
During the 2008 U.S. Open, Tiger Woods scored his 14th major championship, just four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus. This tournament was memorable not because Woods won it, but for the way he won it. I watched both the Saturday and Sunday rounds because it was Woods playing for a major, and I had heard the hype of his injury.
He came in hobbled with a left knee injury, which turned out to be a double-stress fracture on his tibia. His limp was apparent and his anguish was visible after every swing of the club. The injury was so bad that, after finishing the tournament, Woods elected to have surgery to repair the damage as well as his ACL, ending his season.
Even through the adversity, Tiger did what he used to do. He hit shots that were unimaginable. Several times the anchors said that the shot he was attempting wasn’t the safe or the smart play. Yet Tiger hit the ball where he needed to when everything was on the line.
I will not forget what happened on the final hole of the fourth round. Woods was down one stroke. Everything was on the line. He had found the bunker on his first shot on the par-five 18th hole. His second shot out of sand went right, landing in the deep rough. Woods recovered, but left himself a difficult birdie putt to go into a playoff.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind where the ball would go. As it hit the bottom of the cup, Tiger pumped both fists in elation. After all the pain he went through, he didn’t mind going one more round to get the win.
Woods played 18 more holes against co-leader Rocco Mediate. Woods got out to a lead, then Mediate marched back and the players were still tied after 90 holes. The championship then went into sudden death and Woods pulled it out.
Of all the rounds of golf I have ever seen, the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open will be the one I remember the longest.
Now, Woods has faltered since this victory. Personal problems, mainly infidelity, caused him to sink into relative obscurity. He fell down to the 58th-ranked golfer in the world. But Tiger slowly has made his way back to his playing ways. He won six events last year on the tour.
But this year hasn’t started out well. He pulled out with a back injury in the second tournament he played in. He announced Tuesday that he would have surgery to fix a herniated disc, which will leave him out of the Masters Tournament, the first time he has missed that tournament in his career.
I am not alone in saying the biggest reason why I like professional golf is watching Tiger Woods pull out incredible wins and make the game that I struggle with the most look like a piece of cake. Golf hasn’t been the same without the name Woods on the leaderboard in the final round of major tournaments.
Sure, parity is good in all sports. But watching an athlete who is just a phenom win at an incredible rate and chase history — that is something special to watch in any sport. I hope he makes it back to the pedestal. I hope he raises that trophy at least one more time. Regardless of if you like Tiger Woods as a person, one thing I can say: He is incredible to watch.