The Big Three-Oh: #3

Welcome to “The Big Three-Oh!” I’m turning 30 at the end of July and to celebrate, I am counting down my best/favorite sports moments in my lifetime. If you missed the kickoff post, check it out for the background for the seriesHand up, I ran out of time to write this (#3) on Monday so I pushed it to Tuesday. I’ve been super busy at work so writing #3 and #2 on Tuesday the 21st. If you follow the Thunderblog Instagram, you know what’s coming…

#3 — Tiger Woods Wins the 2019 Masters

Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Master is one of the most incredible feats I’ve ever seen. He’d never won a major when he wasn’t leading after 54 holes until this win. It had been nearly 11 years since Tiger had won a major tournament. Woods got close at Bellerive the previous summer at the PGA, losing out to Brooks Koepka. He showed a flash of putting something together at the British Open that summer as well, but Francesco Molinari pulled out that victory.

The 2019 sticks out to me not just because it was 15 months ago. I was in school at the time so I was able to set myself up to watch pretty much the entrie tournament. Watching Thursday and Friday felt the same as every year, the feeling of catching up with an old friend which, in this case, happens to be golf course. Watching the Masters has that effect. The pomp and circumstance the television broadcasts show really gets you in the mood for spring time and for golf to be back. I remember watching Tiger on Friday and him feeling confident going into the weeknd. He was a shot off the top of a star-studding leaderboard. Tiger was right there, but it wasn’t going to be easy. A softer Saturday saw some of the best and brightest in golf shine as Molinari shot a 66 to move to 13-under par. Woods shot a 67 finding himself two shots back, tied with Tony Finau.

Enter Sunday. I was playing my play-in golf match for the handicap tournament at Gulph Mills in the morning. It was announced that the tee times were being pushed up due to an impending thunderstorm coming to Augusta. My opponent and I both agree to play as quickly as possible–he closed my out on the 16th hole, not too shocking considering he played on the club golf team at Wake Forest. We rushed into the clubhouse to see Tiger tee off of the 10th hole and parked ourselves for the back nine. The 12th hole is where things got entertaining. Players were going after the right side pin with a false front. A risky play considering Rae’s Creek in front of them, and they paid the price for it. Tiger knew better when he reached the 12th hole and went to the left side of the green, two-putting his way to a par. Tied for the lead.

After more shuffling around the leaderboard by Xander Schauffle, Brooks Koepka, and crew in front of Woods and Molinari, the top of the leaderboard was packed once again, this time at 12-under with Tiger and Molinari on the 15th hole, a par five. Tiger reached the green in two. Molinari found water once again. Another double bogey for Molinari and a birdie for Tiger. Alone at the top. Tiger nearly aced the par three 16th hole and found himself leading by two strokes. I was howling at the television watching the ball move closer and closer to the 16th hole. Could this actually happen? Par on 17, Tiger only needs to bogey 18. And bogey he did. Tiger won the Masters. Major Championship number 15.

Tiger winning this specific Masters felt surreal. Not only as a Tiger fan, but because I’d made a bet with my dad on whether or not Tiger would ever win another major. The fact that Tiger won the first major after my dad died was just that: surreal. Life has a funny way of providing some forms of closure. Tiger would later win his 82nd PGA Tour event last fall, setting that record and further cementing himself of one of the all-time best. He missed the cut at the Memorial this past week for the first time in his career but Tiger will look for major number 16 this fall in the COVID-compacted schedule.

Today’s Instagram Athlete

CJ McCollum comes in at #3 and it’s hard to see why not. Lehigh basketball was a huge deal while I was in college and it’s thanks to CJ. One of the first series I wrote on the Thunderblog was the Alumni watch, documenting CJ’s rookie year off the bench for the Blazers. Since then, he’s become a bonefied NBA star and I’m incredibly proud to call him a classmate of mine.

(cover photo via)

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