Tiger’s presence at the Masters, at the Augusta National Golf Club this week, has generated a huge frenzy for the first Major of the year.
The man is back with a new swing, and his old swagger. It takes a Tiger Woods to be tipped as favorite to win the Masters even after a title drought of five years. It has been exactly a decade since Tiger won a Major — the US Open in 2008, when he famously beat Rocco Mediate in a sudden death play-off on the 19th hole.
He has played many Majors since, and a lot of personal and physical factors have come in the way of Tiger adding any more Majors to his total of 14, but this time around he has looked good for the Green Jacket ahead of the Masters.
Tiger’s presence at the Masters, at the Augusta National Golf Club this week, has generated a huge frenzy for the first Major of the year. I hear that practice round passes went for an unprecedented $10,000 and even the guys in Las Vegas are betting on a Tiger triumph at Augusta. With the results of T-12, T-2 and T-5 in his previous three starts, Tiger is looking better with each event, and the big stage of Augusta could be the perfect setting for the star golfer to reclaim his rightful place.
With his sheer magnetism, Tiger has always been the biggest crowd-puller in golf. For me, it is a sense of personal joy that Tiger’s latest comeback started at the Hero World Challenge at the Albany in Bahamas in November 2017.
When people say that Tiger doesn’t just move the needle in golf, he is the needle, it rings so true. An entire generation of great golfers that played alongside him was left admiring him, simply clutching second places behind him.
Now there is a whole new generation that does not hesitate to admit that Tiger was the reason they came to the sport, and to them, he is both a friend and mentor.
They grew up hearing of his exploits, seeing his phenomenal performances from the comfort of their living rooms, but they never really felt the fear Tiger would evoke in fellow golfers in his heydays. They say the clock never turns back, but Tiger seems to be doing exactly that — despite four surgeries and countless setbacks, he is back. After contending on PGA Tour events, he is at the Major he loves most — the Masters, where he has won four Green Jackets and now hopes to add a fifth. I have been fortunate to know Tiger for years now and our association has only grown over the past five-six years.
From the legendary golfer I played a few rounds to start with, he is now a friend, who accepted my invitation to come to India a few years back and got to see how much of an effect he has had on Indian golf. The Hero World Challenge — which I and Tiger host together — is not just a charity event but a collection of contemporary golf’s greatest names and Tiger wants to go head-to-head with them.
I have seen the man conquer adversity, pain and loss of form. No one is as determined as him in his quest to regain perfection in golf that once belonged only to him.
He has worked hard since his latest return at the Hero World Challenge in Bahamas. Most importantly, his game is steadily and strongly coming back. He is smashing the drives, hitting his irons razor sharp and staring down putts as only he can. As an ardent fan and friend of Tiger and follower of the game, I would love to see the Green Jacket on the back of Tiger Woods this Sunday; that would truly mark the beginning of a new era in golf — the era of Tigermania 2.0!
(The author is chairman, managing director and chief executive officer of Hero MotoCorp, and the title sponsor of Tiger Woods’ invitational tournament, the Hero World Challenge).