Masters champions interviewed: Tiger Woods in 2019
By James Haddock
Last Updated: 12/04/20 1:32pm
In the final instalment of James Haddock's favourite interviews with Masters champions, we roll the clock back 12 months as Tiger Woods claims his 15th major in sensational scenes at Augusta National.
There has always been an extra buzz around Augusta when Tiger's there and when he's making birdies, moving up the leaderboard. Sunday, 14 April, 2019 was a day etched deeply into the memory of all who were there to witness an incredible afternoon.
Even Fred Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club declared at the time: "It was an epic Sunday and a great day for golf. It's one of the most amazing days in our history."
A Tiger roar heard around the pine trees has an added edge to it, you just know when it's Tiger, wherever you are on the property!
The final round began in unusual fashion with an early morning start due to the threat of bad weather later in the day, the tournament concluded around 2.30pm that afternoon, around four-and-a-half hours earlier than normal.
I managed to get to the 18th green to witness Tiger claiming his win, his 15th major title. It wasn't easy to get a view. It seemed everyone around the course had all converged on that final hole and the final green. I think I got about 20 rows back, forced to stand on tip-toes and push up so much my feet hurt for an hour afterwards!
It was worth it though, it was a moment in time no one there wanted to miss. That is also the joy of Augusta and its rules for patrons - there wasn't anyone holding up a phone, taking selfies, shooting their own video on a tablet in front of you - every single patron around that green just watched and stored it into their memory banks, feeling it a bit more for being there.
With Sergio's win two years earlier there had been a scream of pure emotion in his moment of celebration. With Tiger, it was a resounding roar, and a wave of emotion and, no doubt, relief at ending his almost eleven-year wait for another major victory. This was absolutely one of those "I was there" moments in my life.
Each year we set up the Grill Room around an hour after the winner is crowned and sit to play the waiting game until the champion comes in for the interviews. The time varies, but it comes at the end of a physically and emotionally draining day for them - and for us too!
First, we were told Tiger wouldn't be coming in at all - he needed to fly out of the local airfield and Air Traffic Control were limiting slots for his jet to fly back home to Florida. Five minutes later the situation changed, he would come in - but only to do one interview of one minute with ESPN which would then be shared with us also.
I felt a little downhearted at this point, but that changed when one of the Augusta officials came in to say: "Don't go anywhere, you'll get your slot." Great, now I'd gone from feeling hugely disappointed to being excited and a little nervous too!
Well over four hours after Tiger sealed victory, we're told he's about to leave the members and come to join us in the Grill Room. At this point, I'm now told I can have "three or four questions" with him. Relief and excitement wash over me at the same time.
Then, into the room, comes Tiger.
I've spent much time in my career sat in Tiger Woods press conferences, asking questions, out filming him on the range, on the golf course and I've interviewed him one-on-one a few times too. I've seen him in relaxed settings, but never had I seen him like this.
He was engaging and endearing to the few of us in the room, before the interviews had even started, this was the Tiger we all had hoped to see. His interview was thoughtful, it was honest and as with the "new Tiger" we've seen in the past couple of years he opens up a little bit more than he ever seemed to do before.
"It's pretty amazing to get to where I'm at now," he said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity to play at the elite level again - to win a couple of tournaments and a major tournament as well - I'm gonna soak this one in for a little bit!"
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As I left the clubhouse at dusk, I took a last walk past the 18th green. I stood there and looked out from the position I had stood in to watch Tiger win. It was completely silent, the lights from the clubhouse creating rays of light across the manicured grass.
I wanted to soak it all in one more time. Just a few hours earlier patrons were high-fiving each other with the cry I heard from so many of them "I cannot believe I just saw that". I was the same, and judging by his demeanour in the Grill Room that night, he shared that feeling too.