Return of the Masters Master

Tiger's finally back, and the sports world is better for it

Tiger Woods. Getty Images.

This is why we love sports.

A dominant athlete becomes a transcendental star and elevates his sport. Then he falls from grace, only to find redemption over a decade later.

The sports world has been begging for Tiger Woods to win another major golf tournament. Woods moves the needle like few athletes, and TV ratings, page views and newspaper sales benefit from it.

Sunday, however, it was all about Woods. It was a story of persistence, redemption and skill, and it brought us one of those sports moments that will be remembered for a long time.

Woods' long road back from a very public divorce, multiple injuries and ineffectiveness came on a magical Sunday afternoon where he made shot after big shot, while younger challengers made their moves and fell off, as Woods won the Masters by one stroke.

It is simply one of the greatest comebacks in sports. With 11 years between majors, Woods is finally all the way back.

Back on track

Woods finished at -13 over the four rounds, getting three birdies on the back nine to close out the win. He won his 15th major title, and his fifth Masters, one fewer than Jack Nicklaus for first all time. Now, the race to catch Nicklaus' 18 major titles is back on. Just 11 years ago, it looked like it would be a lock. Then it looked like it would never happen. Now, every major tournament takes on meaning again. Everyone will pay attention to see what Tiger does next. I am like a lot of people; if Tiger has a chance, I will watch. If not? Just not that interested. He made Sunday more than interesting.

A win for golf

Yes, golf needed this. Tiger made the sport relevant in ways it had never seen before and had not seen since. New golf courses cropped up everywhere. Young athletes chose golf over other sports. Tiger inspired a generation of new players.

And now, he can do it again. This was not the dominant Tiger of the past; this was a player who used his knowledge of the course and experience to pull off an amazing win.

It all turned on No. 12, when leader Francesco Molinari put his tee shot in water. Woods did the smart thing, putting his shot in the middle of the green and taking a two-putt par. From there, he was almost perfect, with only a hiccup on 18 that he had room for thanks to a two-shot lead. It was a clinic in smart golf.

Even he did not see it coming

Even Tiger thought he was done thanks to his back injury. Ten years ago I made a joking prediction that he would never win another major. As the injuries mounted, it looked like that would be the case. But he got healthy, and was close last year in two majors.

Sunday, he broke through in a big way. It was fun to watch, and I was happy to see that failed prediction come crashing down.

All about Tiger

It is an amazing story. Golf is now interesting again. The sports world got what it wanted; Tiger is back in a big way. But in the end, it was not about that. It was about Tiger himself, making history and doing what we have missed all these years - creating a major sports moment.

Welcome back, Tiger. Let's hope there is a lot more to come.

This past Wednesday, the day before the women's U.S. Open teed off, longtime golf instructor Hank Haney was suspended from his SiriusXM radio show for comments he made about the LPGA. Here is what he and his cohost Steve Johnson said.

Johnson: "This week is the 74th U.S. Women's Open, Hank."

Haney: "Oh it is? I'm gonna predict a Korean."

Johnson, laughing: "OK, that's a pretty safe bet."

Haney: "I couldn't name you six players on the LPGA Tour. Maybe I could. Well … I'd go with Lee. If I didn't have to name a first name, I'd get a bunch of them right."

Johnson: "We've got six Lees."

Haney: "Honestly, Michelle Wie is hurt. I don't know that many. Where are they playing, by the way?"

Later in the show when informed there were complaints about what he said they had this exchange.

Haney: "I read some deal where, on the scoreboard, there's a lot of girls — isn't there a lot of girls on the LPGA Tour with the same name, right?"

Johnson: "Yeah. They have exactly the same name and they call them, like, there's six of them. They've got a Lee no. 1, a Lee no. 2, a Lee no. 3. One of them was on the leaderboard a few weeks ago, she was the no. 6 Lee."

Many in the golf world reacted as you might expect.

Michelle Wie tweeted this:

As a Korean American female golfer, these comments that @HankHaney made disappoint and anger me on so many different levels. Racism and sexism are no laughing matter Hank....shame on you. I don't ever do this, but this must be called out.

Tiger Woods said Haney got what he deserved with his suspension. (Tiger should have recused himself though. Haney wrote more than a few disparaging remarks about him in his tell-all book.)

Christine Brennan was one among many that called for SiriusXM to take action against him. They did. They suspended him the next day.

Only one problem: while Haney was condescending and insensitive, he was right. He predicted a Lee would win. A Lee won. And it was the one who has the same exact name as 5 other players on tour.

Well, not exactly the same. To differentiate amongst them they've assigned numbers to each.

Jeongeun Lee1

Jeongeun Lee2

Jeongeun Lee3

Jeongeun Lee4

Jeongeun Lee5

Jeongeun Lee6.

I was unaware of this phenomenon until Saturday afternoon when I checked in on the tournament. The leaderboard had the names up and in 4th place that day was Lee6. I honestly thought FOX had made an error in its graphic but later Joe Buck explained it and then it dawned on me. Hank Haney and Steve Johnson weren't kidding. This is a real thing.

That I was unaware of it is even more damning. I am a golf fan. I play as much as possible and watch golf almost every weekend.

I rarely ever watch women's golf though but that's not because I'm misogynistic. It's because they're rarely ever on TV. Ever. Don't get me wrong. It's not an unwatchable product. There are plenty of really good players playing very well. It's just unwatchable here in the U.S. because Americans aren't going to watch foreigners dominate their sport which means they can't get sponsors and without sponsors they can't get on television.

It's a lot like tennis. Quick, name one tennis player not name Venus or Serena Williams. I can name two: the Bryan brothers. I'm basically a tennis savant because I know who the Bryan brothers are. Otherwise the sport is void of Americans and for that reason you can't watch tennis because none of the 4 networks will broadcast it here.

Name one popular sport in America that is dominated by foreigners. Football basically has none. Basketball has Euros but they make up a small percentage. Baseball has a bunch of hispanic players but it's still mostly Americans and oh by the way, our country is made up of a bunch of hispanics. Hockey has a bunch of Canadiens and Russians but no one can tell the difference and there aren't many people watching anyway. Soccer is growing on us as a nation but we don't watch our league. We watch the European leagues because they're better.

The PGA and LPGA are OUR tours.

The PGA has its share of Euros and Aussies with a few New Zealanders mixed in but they speak our language and they're not dominating the tour. The USA has the top 2 golfers in the World in Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson and of the top 28 men's golfers, 16 are Americans. That's why the PGA is on national television virtually every weekend of the football offseason.

The women have 4 Americans in the top 28 and our best, Lexi Thompson is 8th. That's why the LPGA is in the witness protection program.

This isn't a Hank Haney problem. This is an American women's golf problem. If you want Americans to care about your sport, play better. If you want television networks to broadcast your events, play better. If you want bigger purses (they're a fraction of the men's), play better. If you want media coverage of your events, play better.

Hank Haney is a golf guy. He has one thing to cover: golf. He should have known more about the women's game but it's hard to blame him for not caring.

He's not alone.


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