AUGUSTA, Ga. – What happens if Tiger Woods wins the Masters today? Have you thought about it? And once you do, are you able to quit thinking about it?
This will not be your father’s nappy Sunday afternoon at the Masters. And for the record, Internet trolls, I said if Woods wins today, not when. Please note this before your next baby-has-a-full-diaper rant.
But I’ll be honest, I was thinking when, not if. Yet I can’t bring myself to pick against Brooks (Strong Like Bull) Koepka or Francesco (The Maestro) Molinari. I also really like Tony Finau.
This is Woods; this is the Masters; this is something even bigger: golfing lore. This is Ben Hogan at Riviera, Jack Nicklaus in ’86 or Our Bobby (Jones) finishing off the Impregnable Quadrilateral (Grand Slam) in 1930. This is bigger, of course, because it may happen before our own eyes. Anything during our selfish lifetimes is the most important thing ever, which is why Nirvana or Guns ’N Roses always wins a poll as best band, even though the Beatles changed the world.
Woods didn’t appear to play all that well in Saturday’s low-scoring third round, yet he posted a 67 that got him into Sunday’s final threesome. (A forecast for inclement weather will send threesomes off of both nines beginning at 7:30 a.m. EDT.) Imagine what would happen if he brings his best, whatever his best might be at age 43.
What if Woods wins? It will be what Bill Murray comedically warned about as the otherworldly invasion in “Ghostbusters”: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! In this case, maybe just one outta three.
Here is what the Tiger Apocalypse would look like:
TigerMelt. Woods will cry. This will be the biggest win of his life. Bigger than his 2008 U.S. Open victory on a damaged knee, more emotional than the win at Royal Liverpool, his first major title after the passing of his father, Earl. Caddie Joe LaCava should have a towel ready. We men start crying at the drop of a visor after we hit 40. Woods has been through so much in the last decade that he is now a sentimental favorite here, against all odds.
MediaMelt. There were howls in the Masters media center back in ’86 after Nicklaus won and also plenty of writer’s block. “It’s too big,” one writer moaned then. “I can’t write it!” Or words to that effect.
Writers usually love big stories. The bigger the story, the more important it makes the writer. (Yep, that’s how feeding the ego works in this business.)
This story has it all. A man becomes a legendary hero and does legendary things. Beyond legendary. The legend falls from grace, gets hounded by paparazzi and gets divorced. The legend hits rock bottom with a back problem that means he may never play golf again and may never live a minute without pain. He gets arrested. Legend has surgery, legend recovers, legend plays again, legend wins again. Legend wins the Masters. Somebody call Netflix.
There is even more at stake for the media, some of whom also surely will cry. The Return of Tiger Woods might save their jobs, their newspapers or their magazines and fend off the coming inevitable doom for a few months or maybe even a year. (OK, probably not, but I’m trying to be Mr. Brightside here.)
The media have a business interest in this Woods revival. I actually heard a few audible groans Saturday in the media center when Woods missed a birdie putt. Woods has this putt for birdie and the win – and my pension – and it’s gooood!!!
Trollmelt. Those Internet trolls who complain every time I write about Woods and angrily ask why I insist on writing about an irrelevant golfer when I could be writing a scintillating piece on Justin Harding or Webb Simpson will go silent. I picked Woods to win going into this week, based on his showing at the WGC Dell Match Play. Those Tiger-haters will not concede that I was right or that the rest of the free world still wants to read about him, as proved by website clicks and TV ratings. The trolls were wrong, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for an apology.
The countdown meltdown. The golf-history switch just got flipped back on. Tiger’s return means the return of the Countdown to Jack, as I call the race to 18 majors. Once Woods went down with the back problem, and given that it’s been 12 years since he won a major, the Jack Nicklaus mark of 18 majors seemed safe.
Now Tiger has risen from the ashes to get to 15 majors and restart the race. This will be breathlessly reported by a giddy media, happy that it’s finally got some seriously good click bait that doesn’t necessitate skimpy swimsuits – Tiger’s back! – and history it can milk for months.
TigerMania meltdown. Upon further review, the media will quickly realize that, hey, the PGA Championship is barely a month away, and guess what? It’s at Bethpage Park’s Black Course, where Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open. OMG! If he wins there again – and how can he fail, right? – that gets him to 16 majors! What do you think about that, Jack? Memo to Nicklaus family: Change your phone numbers now. Sixteen majors? After the race was given up for dead? Double OMG.
TigerMania meltdown 2.0. By golly wow, it gets worse. The media will soon tip to the fact that a month after the PGA, the U.S. Open goes back to Pebble Beach, where Woods dominated the 2000 U.S. Open. Some call that the best 72 holes of major golf ever played. That would be 17. Seventeen! If that can happen, maybe even newspapers can make a comeback. (Nope, sorry. That’s just a fantasy.)
TigerMania Super-meltdown. It’ll be a slow progression, but once 17 seems possible, that shifts the focus to the British Open at Royal Portrush for its first visit to Northern Ireland since 1951. That would be a big deal in and of itself, but Woods’ trying to tie the Nicklaus mark is even bigger.
Hold on and wait for it! A win at the British Open would be more than just a history-making, Nicklaus-tying No. 18 for Woods. It would complete the actual four-in-one-year Grand Slam. Woods did the Tiger Slam once, four majors in a row, but never this!
Of course, this is just how Hollywood would script it. He ties the unassailable record by doing the impossible. And, of course, he’d beat local-superhero Rory McIlroy in a heroic playoff to do it.
I am emotionally drained just by imagining all this. How about you?
All of this leads to Woods finally being declared the “greatest of all time,” or GOAT, having matched the Nicklaus record.
What if Tiger wins today? It will validate what Brooks Koepka said Tuesday: “We all know he’s back. There’s absolutely no doubt.”
What if Tiger doesn’t win? Next question, please …
Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle