Tiger Woods had just tapped in a three-foot birdie putt on hole No. 15 to take sole possession of the Masters lead, as one of my friends shouted the idea that defined our Sunday afternoon.
“Boys, hurry up and put on red!” he yelled.
We took off in a dead sprint, all nine of us, through a first-floor corridor of Beechwoods Hall and to our dorms. We promptly replaced whatever shirt we were wearing with one of Tiger’s signature Sunday shade.
Woods started donning red on the final day of tournaments before I was even born. Before Sunday, it felt like he hadn’t won a major event since then, either.
OK, so Woods’ drought started after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, but it lasted 3,955 days. With Sunday’s victory being his first at Augusta National in 14 years, he broke the all-time record, previously held by Gary Player (13 years), for most time in between Masters first-place finishes.
I didn’t believe Woods had a chance, but hole-after-hole, he proved me wrong, completing one of the sport’s most unbelievable comebacks.
He won after four knee and four back surgeries and with fused vertebrates in his spine.
He won after a personal scandal that made him look like a despicable fool and rightly turned the public against him for a couple years.
Most surprisingly, he won after so much time and being off his game for so long. I was nine years old the last time Woods was truly dominant. I’m 20 now.
He’d only tallied one first-place finish since 2013, with his lone triumph coming last September in the non-major Tour Championship.
Then again, he’s been making the impossible seem possible for nearly 23 years. Even during his down period, he defined golf.
My younger self never realized how good he was. The world, in general, took his talent for granted. That’s not the case anymore.
I’m a casual spectator, but on Sunday, Woods converted me to a hardcore fan. I was even trying to study his putting lines, confirming his evaluations each time he set up.
After Woods hit a drive that rolled just inches from the cup and sank another birdie putt to take a two-stroke lead on hole No. 16, my friends and I all came to a collective realization.
He was going to win.
All he needed to do on the last two holes was not mess up, and all we, at Beechwoods Hall, had to do was make sure we were far enough from the edges of our seats to not fall off. Both parties made true on those scenarios, although I was dangerously close to dropping to the ground once or twice.
It’s OK to be excited. Mr. Fist Pump, himself, Tiger Woods knows that better than anyone.
When he made his final putt of the round to close out the afternoon and the tournament, he screamed, and with his putter in his left hand, threw his arms up into the air.
I felt like a kid again, watching the same dominant Tiger Woods I had more than a decade ago. He had successfully glued a group of easily-distracted college kids to the TV screen to watch golf, of all things.
If that’s not good for the sport, I don’t know what is. The rest of America apparently agreed.
TV ratings spiked to 12.1 as Tiger clinched the green jacket, setting the highest Masters peak since 2013.
I certainly don’t know where Woods goes from here. He’s up to sixth in the Official World Golf Rankings. He could catch fire and claim the next three majors to tie Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18. Or, he might never win again.
After what he achieved Sunday, it wouldn’t matter.
But, I’ll keep my closet full of red, just in case. Heck, I was still so excited, I wore it again on Monday.