Last Updated on April 9, 2022 by BVN

Jon D. Gaede | BVN Sports

Twenty-five years ago, an 18-year-old Kobe Bryant faced Michael Jordan at the “Fabulous Forum” in Inglewood. In that same winter of 1997, a 21-year-old PGA rookie named Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, won his first Masters at Augusta Georgia. He won the event by 12 shots, a margin no script could write. Sadly, one of that year’s competitors is no longer with us and the other has just reemerged.

Tiger remained in the hospital for three months, his ability to play or walk in doubt

Perhaps no other modern athlete has galvanized the interest and popularity of a single sport like Tiger Woods. His impact on those who love to play the game and countless others simply fascinated by his persona, is extraordinary. 

On February 23, 2021, Wood’s vehicle rolled and tumbled some 150 feet into a Rancho Palos Verdes ravine, severely injuring his right leg. In the aftermath, surgeons seriously considered amputating just above the ankle. Tiger would remain in the hospital for the next three months, as his ability to play or walk again remained in doubt.

Woods traveled to Augusta this week on his surgically repaired right leg to compete again

Fourteen months later, after several surgical procedures to save his right leg, followed by a year of rigorous rehabilitation, Tiger Woods traveled to Augusta this week to try out his surgically repaired right leg in official competition. Woods chose golf’s most prestigious venue to make his latest return. The golf world is buzzing as the Augusta patrons covet their tickets, hoping to witness history again or just get another glimpse of this Tiger. The golf media had not scripted a Woods’ return, because the idea was so remote. His fellow PGA peers, tournament organizers and golf fans throughout the world are now buzzing. A demanding 7,500 yards of narrow fairways, tabletop greens and the undulated terrain of Augusta awaits him.

“The only flat spots at Augusta are the tee boxes”

Tiger Woods

Supported with rods, plates and screws, he hopes to compete at the highest level

Tiger Woods has been away from the game that made him. His current world ranking is 973rd, but that doesn’t matter to him because he feels like he can not only compete but win at Augusta this week. “I am extremely thankful to my team and everyone who has been part of my daily rehabilitation,” said Woods, who has limited mobility in the injured leg. Supported with rods, plates and screws, he hopes the repaired leg will allow him to swing and compete at the highest level. “My surgeons gave me a chance, it’s up to me now.”

Tiger Woods nearly loses part of his right lower leg, just 14 months ago. On the mend, Tiger plays and seeks his 5th Masters at Augusta this week. (Photo: Jon Gaede/Black Voice News)

At a pre-Master’s news conference, Tiger reflected on golf legend Ben Hogan’s car crash in 1949 and subsequent return to play at Augusta with sustained injuries. Woods didn’t think that he would be playing had his accident occurred during the Hogan era. Woods said he hoped to find the fairways this week, reflecting that the uneven lies and slopes of the course would be difficult, adding, “The only flat spots at Augusta are the tee boxes.”

Currently, the top four and seven of the top ten players in the world are under age 30. Tiger is 46, has endured several back surgeries, not including the severe injury to his lower right leg from last year’s car accident. In each case, Tiger has had to completely reinvent his golf swing to compete. He’s never pain free and likely has a threshold that mere golf mortals could not imagine. Simply walking the daily required one- and one-half miles (7,475 yards) on a tough course may be his most difficult challenge this week. Then again, it’s Tiger Woods at the Masters.

Harold Varner, golf’s only other Black player, will make his Master’s debut

There are other story lines at the 86th Masters this week. Harold Varner, golf’s only other contemporary Black player, currently ranked 40th, will make his master’s debut. World Number 1 ranked Scottie Scheffller has simply dominated 2022, by winning three of golf’s first five tournaments so far this year. Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese born player to win a “Green Jacket” in 2021, and will defend his title. Popular three-time winner, Phil Michelson, who has played in 28 Masters, will not be there.

Harold Varner III, currently ranked 40th on the World Tour, will play in his first Masters Tournament. (Photo: Jon Gaede/Black Voice News)

For those looking in for the first time, Augusta, like the Kentucky Derby perhaps, certainly has its own vernacular, here are a few. ”Magnolia Lane,” describes the iconic driveway leading to the clubhouse;  “Amen Corner” refers to holes 11, 12 and 13; “Azalea” identifies the flowering shrub in abundance on the course; “Hogan’s Bridge” is a rock structure named after Ben Hogan, above Ray’s Creek on the 12th; “Eisenhower Tree” is along the 17th fairway; “Green Jacket” only adorns the winners; and “Golf’s Heaven” refers to Augusta, Georgia, where perhaps the magical game of golf and the afterlife merge.

Tiger Woods is the most compelling athlete of our time, the world will be watching.

Born in 1975, the Tiger Woods golf legacy began when his father Earl put golf clubs in his son’s hands at age three. Eventually, Tiger’s phenomenal ability to shape shots, improvise, scramble, recover, endure pain, and embrace the moment are without measure. Worldwide, it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t know his name. He has won 82 tournaments, 15 majors and an unprecedented fifth Masters title in 2019. Tiger Woods is simply the most compelling athlete of our time, and the world will be looking in.

While on assignment for GamePro Magazine in 1996, Jon Gaede met former Black Voice Sports Editor, Leland Stein at a Los Angeles Lakers’ game. They formed a working relationship which has endured for 24 years. In addition to African safaris, theater productions, Footsteps to Freedom Tours with Black Voice News Publisher Emeritus Cheryl Brown, concerts and portraits, Jon’s true passion comes from shooting action sports images. Jon has covered a variety of prep, collegiate and professional sports from track & field to boxing, including six Olympic Games.