Watch On The Masters Live: Golf Tournament from Augusta Main Event channels across the four days. The best moment of the golf season is officially about us, with the 2019 Masters this week in the Augusta National being a star-studded event.
The story of the Masters at Augusta National is told in colors and numbers. The popping pink azaleas, the fruit punch red of the boards, all of it splayed against a background as green as the sky is blue. The premise is simple, but getting to the end of the maze at the top of the pile is endlessly complex. Woods cut contrastingly against this phalanx of beauty on Saturday with his mauve mock shirt and energy-drink green logo on the bag. He stood out because of his appearance — never has a man made light purple and neon green look so appealing — but he also stood out because of his play.
There is always anxiety over noises you hear on the grounds of Augusta National. Because phones and similar electronic devices are not allowed (a great policy, by the way), you may hear something thunderous halfway across the course and have no idea what’s unfolding. Patrons have to wait until the plinko-style leaderboards are manually updated, and every break in the action near a board on Saturday led to every human being in a reasonable radius staring at one surname: Woods. This is part of the storytelling.
After starting the round with four consecutive pars, Woods bogeyed the fifth for the third straight day. Volunteers slapped a red “5” on the leaderboards to indicate that he’d dropped a shot from 6 under to 5 under.
A 6 and then a 7 and then an 8 — all red — were popped into their proper slots when Big Cat birdied the sixth and the seventh and the eighth. Another 8 came at the ninth and received a similar ovation from those at the hole as Woods miraculously saved par despite finding the pines and coming up short on his second. Woods closed the first nine in 2-under 34, and then the board operators really went to work.
A tight, spinny chip on No. 13 led to birdie. The spectators on that hole — the start of Tiger’s run down the second nine — were unfathomably silent as Woods settled in for what would be a putt to get to 9 under. I’m always astonished at how still and silent 5,000 humans can be when Tiger is addressing a golf ball. It can be unnerving. Right before he brought his putter back, a bird took off the other way down the 14th fairway. It’s not notable except that it’s not something you often see at Augusta National. It was also the only noise anyone heard as Woods hit his putt … until he sank it and the place erupted.
Another superb chip led to another birdie at No. 15 after Woods blasted his second over the green. He touched double digits under par for the first time. His tee shot on No. 16 was one of the best of the day, and he stepped after the birdie putt to tie the lead at 11 under. Volunteers put the single digits away for Woods’ slot on the board. He’s not likely to need them again.
The lower Woods goes, the faster the pace around him quickens. He is an anchor, but his orbit has multiple velocities, and one of the fastest I’ve ever seen took place on Saturday. You can’t run at Augusta National, but boy were folks trying to test what the definition of running is. The stands for the pairings coming in behind Woods were spotty, and they included multiple top 10 players in the world. Such is the orbit of Big Cat. The group following him seemed to grow exponentially.
A par-par finish puts Tiger is 11 under, two back of Molinari. Woods walked up the throat of the green on No. 18 to raucous applause as folks breathed in fertilizer dust, sweat and sunscreen and breathed out adulation for the best most of them have ever seen. Scoreboard operators grabbed binoculars next to the 18th green and stuck them over the board with his name on it. They wanted to watch the history they were recording.
It’s a good thing sobriety tests were not administered as patrons spilled out of Augusta National on Saturday evening. I’m not sure anyone who followed Tiger would have passed. Folks were inebriated on nostalgia, and the emblem of that nostalgia is Woods’ scripting this week.