The 2011 Masters should have been everything we ever wanted in a golf tournament: A young superstar in the making dramatically fell apart after a dominating weekend, an amazing finish that brought us a new champion out of nowhere, all while eight different players held a share of the lead.
Let me say that again: eight different players held a share of the lead. That's pretty much as good as it gets in golf. That's the golf equivalent of a NHL Game 7 that had eight different lead changes—in the third period alone.
But for some reason, I, and many other golf fans, went to bed Sunday night feeling disappointed.
Of all the amazing things that happened at Augusta on Sunday, there was truly only one thing that actually captivated the audience, and that thing was Tiger Woods.
Even as we marveled at Rory McIllroy's seemingly transcendent first 54 holes, we secretly scanned down the leaderboard to find Tiger.
Even as Woods seemed to shoot himself out of contention with a 74 on Saturday, we kept him in the back of our minds. And when he caught fire on Sunday afternoon, we just couldn't hold it in anymore.
The crowds at Augusta burst out with the pent up energy of two winless years. People watching all across the country began posting statuses, tweeting, texting and calling their friends and family with exclamations of, "He's back, baby!"
I tweeted it. I told my sister. I talked about it at work. I was as excited as anybody.
And as we watched him stumble to an even par on the back nine and walk into the clubhouse somewhat dejected and anything but victorious, we tried to hide our disappointment.
We feigned interest in Adam Scott and Jason Day's potential playoff, and we pretended to be excited when Charl Schwartzel made his miraculous run to win it all.
But inside, we were all disappointed that we were so close to seeing what we really wanted: history. Sure, some people will say that Schwartzel winning his first tournament at the Masters in such dramatic fashion was historic. But it's nothing compared to what we were hoping for, what we almost had.
This particular tournament, this seemingly simple golf tournament that has happened every year for the past 75 years, can tell us a lot about ourselves as sports fans.
It tells us that we all want to be a part of greatness. Every one of us sees a little bit of ourselves in our favorite athletes too, and that draws us closer to them than any game or play ever could. And what we saw with Tiger on Sunday was a culmination of those two things.
Every sports fan wants to witness the greatest. We want to see the greatest game, the greatest matchup and most of all the greatest athletes. That's the big one. Everyone wants to be able to say they saw the greatest who has ever played.
I grew up in the '90s, right smack dab as MJ was dominating the NBA. The problem was, I was a kid. I didn't care about the NBA, the PGA or anything other than not getting cooties.
Looking back, I wish I had paid attention to sports. I wish this because it was my chance to watch something that only comes around once in a lifetime, if that.
I will never be able to tell stories to my kids about watching the greatest win three straight titles, proving everyone wrong, because the only thing I remember about MJ (other than what I've now watched retrospectively) is his mishaps running a basketball team and his great Hall of Fame speech.
And now, I watch every new prospect come in with the hype of being an all-time great and almost always end up disappointed.
I watched "The Decision" this summer and was disappointed because there went another one with all the potential and hype in the world, no longer in the running for greatest of all-time.
But for a solid 10 years, I thought I was still going to get to witness the career of the greatest golfer of all-time.
And that's part of the reason we were all disappointed after a thrilling day of golf. Tiger Woods was on track to become the greatest.
He'd won 14 majors at the age of 33. He won the 2008 U.S. Open on literally one leg. That's one of those stories I would tell my kids someday about the greatest golfer I ever watched.
And then it all seemed to be washed away with a Thanksgiving night car accident and a million tabloid stories. We picked and we picked and we picked him apart until there was nothing left, and now that we realize what we did, we want him back.
You see, it didn't take sports fans long to realize how much golf missed Tiger, how much sports missed its most dominant figure, only by then it was already too late. I don't know when or even if Tiger will ever return to form and cement himself as the greatest. But I sure hope he does, and it seems so do many people.
I'm not condoning what Tiger did, nor do I think he should be forgiven of all his personal mistakes. We've all made mistakes, and we all hope that we are given a second chance. There isn't too many times in our lives that we can say we've witnessed the greatest anything.
I know I've already missed one chance, and I don't want another to be taken away. After witnessing what happened on Sunday, it seems like most of America doesn't either.
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