Andover golf standout Mac Lee had just stepped off the links following a day of play at a local tournament when he heard the news that was rocking the golf world on Sunday.
Tiger Woods — the legend so many had written off as finished long ago — was on the verge of winning the Masters.
“I was watching the last few holes on my phone on the ride home,” said Lee, a three-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star golfer. “I saw Francesco (Molinari) hit it into the water on (hole) 15 and thought to myself, ‘Tiger’s winning’ because he thrives in those situations. It was amazing.”
Woods, the embattled icon, completed a career comeback most thought was impossible on Sunday, winning the Masters with a 13-under score, edging Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele by one stroke.
It was the first major title for Woods since 2008 and 15th of his career. It was his first Masters crown since 2005 and fifth overall.
And the return of the man who once left the rest of the golf world in his dust riveted fans — including much of the area’s top golf talent.
“This was a huge day for not only the golf world but all of sports,” said Central Catholic Eagle-Tribune All-Star Mikey Yfantopolus. “The fact that he had never won a major when trailing going into the final round was unbelievable. And to do it on Sunday, against a machine like Molinari was arguably his greatest accomplishment. It was truly historic and I honestly can’t believe he won another major.”
To give some perspective to Woods’ Masters drought, the last time he won the tourney’s green jacket — April 10, 2005 — the Red Sox were just five months removed from their first World Series title since 1918. Tom Brady had just won his third Super Bowl and Allen Iverson was the NBA’s leading scorer.
The top show on television back then was American Idol, the No. 1 movie was Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and the No. 1 song of the week was “Switch” by Will Smith.
So, for the 2018 Eagle-Tribune All-Star golfers, Sunday was the first chance to see the dominant Woods they had heard so many stories about.
“I hoped he could show our generation a sample of how he played during his prime,” said Lee. “As I’m sure countless other golfers do, I really see him as an idol and I aspire to work like he does to win.”
The climb back to the top of the golf world for Woods has been littered by controversy away from the course and major injuries on it, including four back surgeries — one in 2017 that threatened his career.
“I think it’s amazing how he has come back from all those back surgeries to win at the highest level,” said Haverhill’s Troy Donahue, a two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star. “He was a machine. I was watching at my house. It was amazing. Watching him play the back nine was incredible. He didn’t make a mistake.”
Woods, the man who spent a stunning 281 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the world and then fell all the way to No. 1,199, has always had a way of captivating fans both diehard and casual like few ever have. It is a way only transcendent athletes like Michael Jordan, Brady and Bo Jackson can — and it was on full display on Sunday as he crept one closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major titles.
“To see Tiger, seemingly past his prime, come back and win against the biggest names in modern golf at Augusta is pretty remarkable,” said North Andover All-Star Timmy Dias. “It might be the greatest comeback in golf history. It’s good for the game to have Tiger as a Masters champion again. It really ignites the debate about who the greatest of all time is.”