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Tiger Woods’ 2019 was light on consistency but heavy on legacy

November 27, 2019

With last season’s PGA Tour campaign in the books (and the next already begun), finalists have emerged in the race for GOLF’s 2019 Player of the Year. Votes in the past have tipped in favor of one or two candidates. This year, there are four — all worthy and all with passionate supporters. And the POTY is …? Pick ’em. We’ll make our case for the four frontrunners and let you decide. Sean Zak already made his case for Brooks Koepka, and Dylan Dethier for Rory McIlroy. Now, here’s Michael Bamberger on the third candidate: Tiger Woods.

The case for Tiger Woods

Tiger said he would be there for lunch at 12:33 and he was. His guests were already seated. Tiger was wearing a sport coat and a backpack from the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. It was an odd combination, but he made it work.

“Brooksie!” Tiger said.

Brooks Koepka looked up. He had been watching a video on his phone of a guy doing a one-armed plank on a medicine ball.

Tiger saw Rory McIlroy and said, “You look bigger on TV!”

“Funny guy,” Rory said. “Don’t quit your day job yet.” They bro-hugged.

Tiger turned to Jin Young Ko and said, “Ms. Ko, I presume?” He offered a perfect Korean bow. “What a year you had. You won by, what, three at Mission Hills? And five in Canada? You remind me of somebody I used to know!”

Tiger sat and urged his guests to open their menus. Tiger took out a piece of poster board, a mock-up of a GOLF Magazine cover, from his backpack. It depicted Tiger floating horizontally above Rae’s Creek, with Brooks, Rory and Jin on the near bank, making the we’re-not-worthy wave, and included these cover lines in red ink:

OUR POTY: See Tiger Fly

Pat the server slipped into the room. Jin ordered a steak. Brooks ordered a salad. Rory ordered a grilled chicken sandwich.

“Your regular, Mr. Woods?” Pat said.

“Thank you, Pat,” Tiger said. Tiger gave Pat a fist-bump and said, “They know me so well,” using Pat’s preferred pronoun. They kvelled.

Tiger pointed toward the mock-up and said, “Look, I told the editors, ‘It’s your magazine, you do what you want, but this isn’t what I would choose.’ The editor-dude goes, ‘Ask the other three. They’ll love it.'”

Tiger considered the other three. They considered the mock-up. There were no signs of love. Pat gave it a look and poured Tiger an iced tea.

The room was briefly silent. Then Tiger said, “Erica made this for me.” He removed one of those homemade Apple photo books from his backpack.

He handed the slender volume to Jin. She leafed through it. The photos were practically breathing. Tiger hugging his kids on Masters Sunday. Tiger with Viktor Hovland in Butler Cabin. Patrick Reed helping Tiger into his green jacket. Jin rubbed the page, the green jacket under her slender right thumb.

“You want to try it on?” Tiger asked.

He started to take off his coat. Jin blushed.

“Really, it’s fine,” Tiger said. “But don’t you guys touch it!”

Brooks smirked.

Jin handed the book back to Tiger. He walked over to the Arnold Palmer/Jordan Spieth locker and put the book in it. Tiger and his guests were in the Champions Locker Room on the second floor of the Augusta National clubhouse.

“Do you think we’ll have time to play the par-3 course today?” Brooks asked. He sounded like the Little Leaguer he once was.

“Of course!” Tiger said.

“I was kind of hoping to visit the pro shop?” Rory said, turning a statement into a question, in that Irish way.

“Then we shall!” Tiger said.

Presently, the locker-room door sprung open and in popped Gary Player, wearing his vitality like a cologne.

“Gentlemen,” Gary Player said. He nodded gallantly at Jin. “Lady.”

He took a carrot from a platter of crudités.

“Tiger, I have a question for your distinguished visitors,” Gary Player said. QWEST-shun. His years in Florida had not softened his clipped South African accent. “All three of you have had incredible years. Remarkable. I congratulate each and every one of you. But would any of you not trade your year for what this mon has done in his?”

They considered their lives, post-trade. Rory thought about his new status, as the sixth winner of the career grand slam. Brooks wondered if he could get the winner’s green jacket tailored to his liking. Jin couldn’t get past the idea of being the first woman just to play in the Masters

Pat returned with the first course, a cold Georgia-peach soup with blueberries, mint and a dollop of whipped cream.

“Ah, Pat!” Gary Player said. “If you don’t mind: Who do you think should be Player of the Year?”

“If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Gary, GOLF has already answered that question,” Pat said, nodding toward the mock-up.

Gary Player slapped his knee and watched Jin and Rory and Brooks make a series of synchronized north-south agreement nods.

“Then it’s unanimous!” Gary Player said.

Tiger tried to hide his smile but could not.

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