AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods faced this question: Should Jack Nicklaus be worried about his record 18 majors?
“Well, I don’t know if he’s worried or not,” Woods replied, later adding: “I’m just enjoying 15.”
Perhaps he’d also enjoy these 15 takeaways from one of the most memorable Masters in history:
1. This place always delivers. Sunday drama at the Masters is a given. The risk-reward holes on the back nine lend themselves to “ooohs” and “aaahs” every year. Dustin Johnson picked up four shots on the back nine Sunday. Francesco Molinari crumbled, putting two balls in the water.
Masters officials lengthened the fifth hole and got what they wanted, we suppose. Woods bogeyed the hole all four days. But they’d be wise to think twice before moving the tee box back at No. 13, which yielded 17 crowd-pleasing eagles this week.
2. Woods’ victory is great news for Chicago golf fans. Medinah will host the BMW Championship (Aug. 15-18), a FedEx Cup playoff event featuring the top 70 on the points list. Woods just surged from 81st to 13th.
3. Woods’ dissection of his thought process on the 155-yard 12th was epic. “I had 147 over the first tongue in the bunker, so my number was 150. I saw Brooks (Koepka) ended up short. (Ian Poulter) ended up short as well. I was up there on the tee box and I could feel that wind puff up a little bit. Brooksy is stronger than I am, and he flights it better than I do, so I’m sure he hit 9-iron but didn’t make it. So I knew my 9-iron couldn’t cover the flag. I said: Just be committed. Hit it over that tongue. Let get out of here (with par) and let’s go handle the par 5s, and I did.”
4. Masters officials had a spectacular week. The women’s amateur event was well attended and shined a light on the progress the club has made since former Chairman Hootie Johnson’s “point of a bayonet” clash with Martha Burk. Champion Jennifer Kupcho won in epic fashion, with an eagle on 13 and birdies on three of her final four holes.
And then, because of the threat of severe weather, they moved up Sunday’s start time and had players go off both the first and 10th tees. By the time the weather horn sounded at 2:52 p.m., calling for the evacuation of the course, Woods had received his green jacket from Patrick Reed.
5. Woods has won green jackets in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2019, joining Nicklaus as the only men to win the Masters in three decades.
6. Asked to describe his impact on golf, Woods said he has brought more youth to the game. And encouraged players to improve their conditioning.
“A lot of the guys on the tour now are training,” he said. “They are getting bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic. They are hitting the ball prodigious distances, and a little bit of that’s probably attributed to what I did. When I first turned pro, I was the only one in the gym, except Vijay (Singh).”
7. And now for the ribbing. “Now everyone trains,” he said. “Even Phil (Mickelson) is working out. Things have come a long way.”
8. Chew on this. Mickelson told the New York Times last month that he likes to chew gum while playing to boost cognitive functioning.
Woods chewed much of the week but for a different reason: “I’m chomping on this gum because I usually get hungry, I keep eating so much. And it curbs my appetite a little bit, which is nice. The issue I have at tournaments is I lose so much weight.”
9. Viktor Hovland of Norway was low amateur, finishing at 3 under. Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim took the prize at last year’s Masters, shooting 8 over in tougher conditions.
10. Rickie Fowler remains the best player never to have won a major. He got close again Sunday, finishing T-9.
“I love this place,” he said. “I’ve got a jacket coming soon, just not this year. I know I can get it done here.”
11. Woods received $2,070,000 for his victory. A Woods fan did almost as well. The William Hill sportsbook had an $85,000 wager on Woods at 14-1, resulting in a $1.19 million payout.
“It’s a painful day for William Hill – our biggest golf loss ever – but a great day for golf,” company official Nick Bogdanovich told VSiN.com.
12. Woods’ kids (daughter Sam, 11, and son Charlie, 10) might have a love/hate relationship with golf. “Prior to the comeback,” Woods said, “they only knew that golf caused me a lot of pain. If I tried to swing a club, I would be on the ground. I struggled for years.
“Now I think they’re starting to understand how much the game means to me.”
13. Woods was steaming as he came off the fourth green after back-to-back bogeys. Asked about his conversation with caddie Joe LaCava, Woods said: “The talk that Joey and I had … I just listened. He was saying some things that I can’t really repeat here. Then I went into the restroom and proceeded to say the same things over and over to myself and then came out and I felt a lot better.”
14. Several non-winners can take pride in their results. Former Northwestern golfer Matt Fitzpatrick followed an opening 78 with rounds of 67-68-70 to finish T-21. Patrick Cantlay (T-9) and Tony Finau (T-5) threatened. And Jordan Spieth finally showed a pulse, shooting 75-68-69-71. “Progress,” said Spieth, who is in the midst of his worst season. “If it weren’t for those first nine holes (Thursday), I probably would have a chance to win.”
15. Tiger will not reach 18 majors. That’s my prediction. Why? While it’s true he contended at the final two majors last year, Augusta National is the one course that’s perfect for him. The 43-year-old Woods doesn’t pay much of a price for errant tee shots such as Sunday misses on Nos. 2 and 11, and he puts his 20-plus years of course knowledge to use.
That said, he does know Bethpage Black quite well. The course on Long Island, N.Y., will host the PGA Championship next month as part of the reconfigured schedule. Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open there and finished tied for sixth in the 2009 Open.