Tiger’s Journey: 11 years that felt like several lifetimes

FILE - In this April 13, 1997, file photo, Masters champion Tiger Woods receives his Green Jacket from last year's winner Nick Faldo, rear, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Woods completes an amazing journey by winning the 2019 Masters, overcoming 11 years of personal foibles and professional pain that seemed likely to be his lasting legacy. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

The sex scandal. The mugshot. The debilitating injuries.

Tiger Woods certainly didn’t plan it this way.

That only made his 15th major title all the more rewarding.

Or, as Tiger put it not long after tapping in a gimme putt Sunday for a one-stroke victory at the Masters:

“Overwhelming.”

For so much of his life, the outline that Woods and his hard-driving father, Earl, had so carefully laid out went just as they intended.

But when Woods captured his fifth victory at Augusta National — and his first major championship in 11 years that must’ve felt like several lifetimes — he let out a scream that reflected the depths of his personal and professional hell.

Some of it of his own making, to be sure.

Some of it beyond his control, in all fairness.

All of it leading to a day that just didn’t seem possible, not since the master plan fell apart in so many ways.

Tiger Woods.

Major champion.

“Ahh, it fits,” Woods said, beaming as he tugged on that famous green jacket for the first time since 2005, a photo of Bobby Jones staring down above his left shoulder in the Butler Cabin.

For so many years, everything fit so neatly.

From his astonishing swings on “The Mike Douglas Show” at the age of 2 to becoming the first player to win three straight U.S. Amateur titles to capturing the Masters not long after his 21st birthday by a whopping 12 strokes, the Tiger Way was pure perfection, generating millions for him and his sponsors.

He married a Swedish model, had two beautiful children and kept adding one major title after another, capturing his 14th by his early 30s, on a seemingly unstoppable quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus as the greatest champion of them all.

Then, just like that, it all fell apart.

His marriage. His reputation. His body.

He had major reconstructive surgery on his left knee shortly after hobbling to what had been his most recent major championship, a playoff victory in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Turns out, that was only a minor prelude to all that agony that was to come, so much of it self-inflicted.

While everyone was celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in 2009, Woods crashed his SUV into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his Florida home. That led to reports of a myriad of extramarital affairs, wrecking the facade he and his father had constructed of the dedicated athlete and perfect family man. Overnight, one of the world’s most famous people became a punchline.

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