Tiger Woods Makes Remarkable Return With Fifth Masters Win
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Just two years ago around this time, Tiger Woods was ranked the 780th best golfer in the world a far cry from where he stood during the late 90s and mid 2000s when he was considered one of the best golfers of all time. After dealing with both personal and medical problems for years, it was uncertain whether Woods would ever get back to the top of the sport. Well, that all changed yesterday when Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament, his first major championship since 2008.
And now President Trump has announced that he will be presenting Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, quote, because of his "incredible success and comeback in sports - golf - and, more importantly, life."
Here to help us wrap all of this up is Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports. Welcome.
DAN WETZEL: Thanks for having me on.
CHANG: So would you rate Tiger's win on Sunday as one of the biggest comebacks you have ever seen in all of sports?
WETZEL: Absolutely because this looked like a guy spiraling completely out of control in every aspect. He's turned his life around. He's not only succeeding on the golf course, he seemed to be extremely healthy in all ways and maintains a terrific relationship with his children. He always wanted to be a terrific father, and you saw that, too, on Sunday.
CHANG: Speaking of that, you wrote a really moving piece about how special yesterday's victory was, in part because of who was waiting for him at the very end. Can you take us back to that moment?
WETZEL: So when he first won in 1997 at the Masters at Augusta National, his father was waiting for him right off of the 18th green. And Tiger was 21 years old at that point. And it was really a culmination of a journey between a father and a son in shocking the world and becoming the youngest Masters champion of all time and the first African-American champion.
WETZEL: It was a pioneering moment. Twenty-two years later, his father has passed away. But Tiger returns, wins even with more acclaim after all this tumult. And who's waiting in the exact same spot where his dad was but his old 10-year-old son Charlie, his daughter Sam, his mom and stuff like that. But it was really Charlie who ran into him. And in the exact same spot...
WETZEL: ...He's now bear-hugging his 10-year-old son where he once bear-hugged his father. And even Tiger is not the most sentimental. But I guess as you get older, you become that.
WETZEL: And his dad got them there by teaching him how to play golf, how to be competitive, how to kick down doors. Charlie and Samantha (ph), his kids, taught him how to keep trying because they - he said they have the infectious happiness of a child. In their own way, they helped him get there, too - just a really interesting situation, the Woods family.
CHANG: Yeah. I want to play you this clip from Brooks Koepka. He finished second after Tiger yesterday. Here's what he said.
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BROOKS KOEPKA: It's probably one of the coolest things to be a part of it. Even though I - you know, you finish second place. You know, you're a little bummed out. But it's - I wouldn't want it any other way. You want to go toe-to-toe with him. And I can leave saying I gave it my all. And he's a good, man.
CHANG: I mean, Koepka is a guy who grew up as a little kid watching Tiger dominate in those early years. Right?
WETZEL: Most of the guys Tiger Woods beat yesterday are playing golf because of Tiger Woods, they will tell you. They were 8 and 10 and 12 years old and said, I want to play like him and were drawn to that sport. Almost all the golfers who lost the tournament stuck around and waited when Tiger was going to win it. Usually, those guys are defeated, they're depressed, and they want to get out of there as fast as possible.
WETZEL: Guys that lost and others stayed, and they just wanted to be a part of it and see Tiger Woods win that. The amount of respect that says without saying a word is incredible. It's very, very rare.
CHANG: So when you were watching him play yesterday, did it feel like a different Tiger in the way he connected with people watching?
WETZEL: All weekend, he wore a smile - if nothing else - that you didn't always see when he was a little bit more intense and robotic and more of a fierce competitor early in his career. I think, over this, he's realized how many people really wanted him to succeed. Again, as we mentioned, he'd been in some dark places physically...
WETZEL: ...And in his personal life. And then here's the support and everybody rooting him on. The crowd wanted him to win. He wanted to win. And it was like a journey he had to go with them together.
CHANG: Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel, thanks so much for joining us today.
WETZEL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.