Sunday Morning Eastern Standard Time, we saw the return of Tiger Woods to the realm of greatness as he fought off the attempts of his competitors to win the 2006 British Open. Tiger’s victory on Sunday marked several important occasions in his now 10 year career.
Perhaps the most import part of Sundays win was it marked an appropriate ending to one of the most emotional days I have ever witnessed in sporting history. As Tiger walked the last few holes of the back 9 at Royal Liverpool you could see and feel the emotion welling within him, but Tiger was not the only golfer vying for a championship on Sunday while carrying a heavy heart.
Tiger’s top competition for the British Open Championship did not come from the Hefty Lefty, The wonder kid Sergio, or Mr. Els; it was Chris DiMarco who remained hot on Wood’s trail throughout Sunday. What made this so special was DiMarco was carrying his own set of personal baggage as he took the course this past weekend. Chris DiMarco’s mother passed on July 4, 2006 suddenly while she was on vacation with her husband. This was a tremendous lost to DiMarco and now here he was trying to compose himself to march on and win a Major Championship less than a month later.
Chris DiMarco surrounded himself with family, flying his father and son over to join him in Liverpool England. Flanked by two generations of DiMarco’s Chris made a strong surge giving Tiger everything he could handle till the final two holes of the tournament. It took a 40 foot putt for birdie and 25 footer for par at 14 for DiMarco to remain on the pace, but he appeared ready for the challenge throughout the entire day. After completing his round DiMarco remarked that he could feel his mom watching over him and guiding him through the final round.
Chris DiMarco has no reason to he hang his head from his second place performance. After sinking a tremendous putt for par to pull within 1 stroke of Woods, Tiger went on a tear. Sinking Birdies on 14, 15, and 16, no shame in losing to that, it was just Tiger being Tiger, and there’s not much anyone can do with that. Unlike so many others Chris DiMarco did not wilt under the Tiger mystique but stayed strong and simply just did not have enough in the tank to keep up with Tiger.
Despite Chris DiMarco’s valiant effort the day belonged to Tiger Woods. Woods played a near flawless round, and a near flawless tournament for that mater. As he walked to the 18th green it was all said and done for Mr. Woods. Carrying a two stroke lead he had fought off the best attempts from DiMarco and simply needed to two putts to notch his third British Open Championship.
Yet this one would be far different from his previous championship runs. It had been a year since Tiger hoisted an Open trophy over his head. Tiger played the first two Majors of the 2006 season (The Masters and U.S. Open) with a heavy heart. In Augusta Tiger knew he was spending his last days with his father Earl Woods. At the U.S. Open he was trying to come back after the death of his mentor and best friend. Almost as if he was making a curtsey appearance rather than a serious attempt Tiger missed the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open. The first time he missed a cut in a Major Championship.
Tiger Woods needed to win the 2006 British Open. Not to keep on pace and catch Jack Nicholas and his records, but to put his career and life back in order. Tiger has taken plenty of criticism for the changes in his game over the past few months and he has never been one to take to criticism well (just ask the countless reporters he now shuns). His swing has been under attack for months now. Add to that a drought in the Majors including his poorest performance to date at the 2006 U.S. Finally top it off by the lost of his father and Tiger was reeling. He needed something to help him regain his focus to golf and re-establish himself as the dominate force that he is.
That’s exactly what Mr. Woods did on Sunday, and he did it in a unique fashion. Tiger put the driver away for the British Open and instead relied on his irons, approach shots and putting to dominate the field. Woods was first in fairways hit, second in greens in regulation. His precision on and around the greens could not be touched. Tiger managed to focus all his energy into the British Open. All the distractions, all the criticisms Tiger took and funneled them into a fury that no one could match on the golf course.
After sinking the final putt on 18 to clench the 2006 British Open Tiger raised his hands to the sky let out a yell before sub coming to the tears. As his caddie held him on the 18th green you could feel the emotions coming from him. Perhaps the most touching moment came as Tiger wept with his caddie and his wife in memory of his father, and at the clubhouse Chris DiMarco watched on with Mike Terrico. As DiMarco watched Tigers celebration you could see the emotion welling within him. At that time you could see that DiMarco felt every emotion that Tiger was feeling at that moment. Though there were not together at the time both men seemed to have a common bond and a shared moment. It was a cathartic experience for anyone who watched as these two warriors gave it their all, and shared a moment that even a person who has never seen a golf course could share.
Sunday was a day that reminded me of why I love sports. It’s not about the records or the championships but it’s about the stories. The moments where a fan can connect to an athlete they’ve never met and completely understand and feel what they are going through.
Thank you, Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco for reminding all of us of what makes sports so special.
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