Tiger Woods on caddy advice that sparked his Masters comeback
Calmness, gum and his trusty 8-iron.
Those were three of the main ingredients in Tiger Woods' remarkable Masters victory at Augusta. The 43-year-old won his first green jacket since 2005 as he rolled back the years with a display of vintage class.
Woods told reporters that the constant gum-chewing was to suppress a raging appetite and confirmed that he used his 8-iron to approach nine of the 18 greens at Augusta National. As for the rest, Woods said:
"I just felt so prepared coming into this event. This year, my finishes don't really reflect it, but I was starting to shape the golf ball the way that I know I can, which I needed for this week.
"Prep for the Masters starts six months ago, so just trying to make sure I get ready to peak for this one week, and I did, and everything came together, which is great. I kept doing all the little things correctly. Missed the ball in the correct spots time and time and time again, and if I was out of position, so be it, take my bogey and move on. I had no doubles this week. Just kept, as I said, just kept plodding along."
Plodding along is a modest way of putting it. Woods' previous four Masters victories have been claimed when he set the pace and outgunned any pretenders. This time he fought his way up the field.
It used to be Tiger Woods and Steve Williams, the laconic Kiwi. That was the partnership - player and caddy. Those were the two men striding out as the chasing pack struggled to keep up.
Woods and Williams parted ways in July 2011. The New Zealander went on to hold the bag for Adam Scott while Woods turned to Joe LaCava.
Both Woods and LaCava have been through the mill together and the tough times helped form a strong bond. That bond was vital after the fifth hole, on Sunday.
Woods claimed a birdie on the third to go within a shot of Francesco Molinari (on -13) but his putter ran cold on the next two holes. He bogeyed the fourth and fifth to fall three shots back.
If any doubts crept in, it was off the back of the green on 5. This is when LaCava earned his crust. Following his victory, Woods commented"
"The talk that Joey and I had off of 5... I just listened. He was saying some things that I can't really repeat here. Then I went into the restroom and proceeded to say the same things over and over to myself, and then came out and I felt a lot better."
Those words, and that time away from the glare of cameras and spectators, helped refocus Woods.
He came out and went par, birdie, birdie. He was back in the hunt.
Just under two hours later and he was embracing LaCava on the 18th.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) April 14, 2019
Back in the winners' circle at The Masters, after a 14-year gap, over $2m richer and up to number six in the world, Woods stressed that his highlight was celebrating the day with his children.
"I think the kids are starting to understand how much this game means to me," he said, "and some of the things I've done in the game.
"Prior to comeback, they only knew that golf caused me a lot of pain. If I tried to swing a club I would be on the ground and I struggled for years, and that's basically all they remember.
"Luckily I've had the procedure [back surgery] where that's no longer the case and I can do this again. So, you know, we're creating new memories for them, and it's just very special."
It certainly was, for more than just Woods and his family.