Spellbinding Tigermania

The massive gallery at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club chanting Tiger Woods' name as the sport's biggest star returns to the winner's circle. Walking ahead on the 18th green is flight-mate Rory McIlroy.
The massive gallery at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club chanting Tiger Woods' name as the sport's biggest star returns to the winner's circle. Walking ahead on the 18th green is flight-mate Rory McIlroy.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Delirious scenes on course as fans and fellow pros celebrate Woods' fairy-tale comeback

ATLANTA • Tiger Woods hit his tee shot at No. 18 early on Sunday evening and started walking down the fairway when things became a little bit unhinged behind him.

Fans, coming from everywhere, swarmed after one of the greatest golfers in history and one who was about to cap an improbable comeback at the age of 42.

There was no controlling this crowd at the Tour Championship, not with Woods marching towards his first victory in five years.

A marshal had been holding a rope behind Woods to keep the crowd back, but he dropped it and was nearly trampled as the crowd surged forward. Suddenly, there were several thousand fans bouncing with joy right behind Woods. "Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!" they chanted.

He then hit his second shot and walked towards the 18th green. The throng started its march as well. It was some spectacle.

The revellers, some holding beer bottles and many holding their phones aloft to take pictures, understood this was not a moment to miss. They then circled the green at the 18th hole of East Lake Golf Club en masse and erupted again when Woods finished off his two-shot victory with a tap-in for par.

He shot a one-over 71 and finished with a winning total of 11-under-par 269. Compatriot Billy Horschel (66) was second.

  • 1,876 Days since Tiger Woods' last PGA Tour victory at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

    1,199 Tiger Woods' world ranking in November 2017 when he made his competitive comeback at the Hero World Challenge.

Golf's public persona took a turn towards the delirious as the sport celebrated the return of its biggest star. All afternoon, there were chants of "Let's go, Tiger".

It wasa ballad of redemption, the man felled at first by his own flaws and later by repeated injuries, being welcomed back with open arms. It filled the fairways.

One man, standing on the first tee as Woods prepared to begin his final round with a three-stroke lead, said: "I'm going to be like a little kid out here screaming for him."

Woods proceeded to birdie the first hole, and the first "Tiger" roar went up. By the fourth hole, the crowd was standing five rows deep around the green when he putted.

His triumphant round on Sunday also allowed some fans on hand to turn to their children and say, "See, this is the guy I have been telling you about".

Jerry Freeman was standing along the eighth fairway with his 13-year-old son, Jerry Jr.

"People are rooting for him," Freeman said. "It's an American story of a comeback. He's earning his way back. It feels like the heyday of Tiger Woods out here today."

England's Justin Rose, who was in the flight directly in front of Woods and ended tied-fourth (73, 274), watched with amazement at the response from US fans, then jokingly said "about time" to the American as he walked off the last green.

"We've all been waiting for him to win and we've all been wanting him to win. And I think it's great for the sport," Rose said. "He truly moves the needle like no one else out here, and he wins in style. He wins with charisma. He's brilliant to watch."

Fans kept coming and coming as Woods progressed through his round. David Provancha, a marshal, watched a wave of people follow the former world No. 1 from the third green to the fourth tee.

"It's the biggest crowd I've seen in 10 years I've been here," he said.

Some fans said Woods seemed easier to identify with now than when he was younger and utterly dominant on the golf course.

All his struggles on and off the course have made him more human, they said, and ultimately more sympathetic despite the numerous mistakes he has made.

"We are all flawed," said one fan, Sheila McDaniel. "Not just him, all of us."

Welcome back, Tiger Woods.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline 'Spellbinding Tigermania'. Print Edition | Subscribe