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Tiger Woods: The Master of Golf Is Back

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IApril 10, 2011

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10:  Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the 15th hole during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The story of Tiger Woods is more of a roller coaster ride than a round of golf for a novice at their local course.

Woods was the greatest golfer anyone had ever seen. Shoot, he was the best athlete in the world for years.

His status and celebrity grew, and Woods was celebrated as a golf god, the man among men.

Then the knee injury halted his on-course success, and his personal life became front page news fodder for all the gossip magazines.

After all the distractions of his affairs coming to light, Tiger took time to sort everything out.

And even when he came back to the PGA Tour in 2010, we were watching a mere shell of the once-proud golfing great.

But on Friday, Woods gave us a glimpse of his sensationally stupendous play, as he shot 66 and set himself up to contend on the weekend.

Though, when he struggled on Saturday, it looked like the Tiger of the last 17 months (the span since he's won a tournament), and it seemed as if he would lose once again.

Tiger began the day at four-under, seven shots back of Rory McIlroy (-11). It would take a miracle for him to get back into contention.

But what nobody knew was that Tiger still had some miracles left in him, saved for Sunday.

Woods birdied two and three, starting with confidence that he only built upon during the day.

Something special was on the way.

At seven, his first true surge of emotion shone with a smallish fist-pump.

We smiled.

At eight, Tiger sunk his eagle putt from 12 feet and threw a right hook that would frighten even Muhamed Ali.

As the crowd exploded with elation, Woods regained his swagger.

The look of extreme focus, that animalistic intensity came over him.

This is the Tiger Woods we've grown to love.

Even knocking his drive into the pine needles on nine couldn't derail the Tiger train from rumbling down the tracks to his ultimate goal, and Woods saved par.

As Tiger made the turn, he was already five-under on the day. What more magic could Woods give the adoring fans?

Tiger pushed to tie the lead at 10-under. McIlroy, who noticeably felt the pressure of leading the greatest tournament in golf, struggled early but pushed back to regain the lead (-11) with a birdie on seven.

There was a feeling that we were all watching something historically great—the feeling that if we missed one moment, we would miss it all.

Then Tiger faltered. He bogeyed 12. He lost it on 13 for a par instead of a needed birdie.

On 14, he couldn't sink a 12-foot birdie as it inched passed the hole left and the rest of the field (five players) passed him. Woods sat at -9, McIlroy at -11 and four others at -10.

Tiger needed to make another run at the leaders, but did he have it in him?

Of course he did. At 15, Woods knocked his second shot to within five feet. It was spectacular.

But, the eagle wouldn't drop for Woods, and he had to settle for birdie.

He sat atop the leader board, an all too unfamiliar place lately, tied with four men.

McIlroy plummeted on the back nine, while Geoff Ogilvy charged with five straight birdies. Every one of the leaders came from four shots behind or more when the day began.

This was a fantastic finish to the crown jewel of golf.

One of the most memorable Masters.

And as the end of the day approached, the challengers wilted under the pressure.

Adam Scott knocked a shot into the spectators, Jason Day was forced to punch out of the trees and Luke Donald bogeyed.

At the end of his day, Tiger finished at -10, a sensational 67 and he even left at least two shots out there.

So he waited, as the next generation of golfers, the young guns, shot to take down Tiger.

Scott took over, knocking home a birdie on 14, then hitting his tee shot on 16 to within three feet, to sink another birdie and drop to -12 with two to play.

Donald hit the flagstick on 18 twice; the first off of one leg next to a bunker in the fairway, the second a chip-in birdie to finish -10.

And Day jumped into the mix, shooting 276, which was the lowest score of a first-year player, as he and Scott tied at -12.

Then Charl Schwartzel charged with back-to-back-to-back birdies on 15, 16 and 17, to take the lead by one.

The South African set himself up perfectly on 18 and sank the putt for the win, 50 years to the day that his countryman Gary Player became the first international-born player to win The Masters.

In the past, it was a forgone conclusion that Tiger would win many major tournaments.

The difference now is that the younger players aren't frightened of "The Tiger," and he has to fight all the way to win.

And that's what Tiger did, against one of the most difficult courses in the world and against the stiffest of competition.

Alas, he couldn't win at Augusta for his first time in 2005, and he wasn't able to finally come from behind in the final round of a major championship.

But Tiger Woods showed flashes of brilliance, he showed he's close to the championship winning level; he brought back the intensity and entertainment.

Tiger is back.

Golf is back.

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com, a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com and a contributor to milehighreport.com writing on the Denver Broncos.

Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.

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