Charl Schwartzel won the 2011 Masters. He birdied the final four holes and shot a 66, the best round of the last day. He won by two strokes.
His name, however, did (and still does) suggest a muscle pull. Ouch. I pulled my Schwartzel. It also suggests dessert. Put some ice cream on your Schwartzel. Outstanding.
Despite the name, and despite the victory, I didn’t write about Schwartzel after the final round. I wrote about Tiger Woods.
By then, some readers were Tiger-ed out, and angry that I wrote about a nonwinner. We forget, despite the Tiger love fest in Augusta this week, that Tiger wasn’t always beloved. He was stoic. He was cold. He got in trouble. The sport had caught up to him.
Tiger began the round on that Sunday in 2011 seven shots behind leader Rory McIlroy. Tiger was one of the many. And then he took off. I mean he soared. On the front nine, he birdied four holes, eagled one and shot a 31.
Yes, Tiger would finish the day with a 67, four shots behind Schwartzel.
But when Tiger made his charge, and he came all the way back to share the lead, it was like a cause.
As Tiger’s score shrank, his already enormous gallery grew. Except for one guy who was appropriately admonished by an official for borrowing an expression from 1946 and yelling, “You ’da man!” when Tiger shot.
But when he finished, you felt as if you were at a big-time college football game with movable bleachers. Fans would smack each other on the shoulder, celebrating because they were with Tiger in every way. They were part of something.
Phil Mickelson is beloved in Augusta and every other place. McIlroy always draws a large crowd of interesting people.
But Tiger was different. Even if he appeared oblivious to the support, he offered fans what nobody else could. If he didn’t do something spectacular on this hole, there was the unwavering belief that he would he would do it on the next.
The Masters begins Thursday. After missing three of the last four Masters because of back surgeries and back issues, Tiger is back. You probably heard.
By Sunday, some of you again will be Tiger-ed out. You might already be.
But this is grand theatre, and you don’t have to be a fan to get caught up in it. You have to be human.
More from this issue of the Tom Talks newsletter:
Thursday’s first round
TV: ESPN, 3 p.m.
Tee times, pairings to watch:
10:42 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood
10:53 a.m.: Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, a-Doc Redman
11:04 a.m.: Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day
12:54 p.m.: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, a-Lin Yuxin
1:27 p.m.: Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar
1:38 p.m.: Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
1:49 p.m.: Jordan Spieth, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen
2 p.m.: Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Rafa Cabrera Bello