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Hi, everyone. A quick reminder before we begin today that we want to hear from you, please write to us with your feedback, questions or ideas for who we should cover in season two of all American. You can reach us at all. American at Sicher dot com. That's all American without the hyphen at Stitcher dot com. And if you've tried to reach us before, I want to encourage you to send your note again. Thank you to listener Don, who let us know that he was getting a bounce back reply.

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We've fixed the issue and we can't wait to hear from you. Thanks. Previously on all-American, it was just like he had opened up this whole new possibility to what a golfer could be. You've said that I love to compete. That's the essence of who I am. What did you mean by that? Love to compete. Whatever it is. You and I could be playing cards right now. And it's what kick your butt you'd want to win.

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Now I want to kick your butt is different.

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This guy ever win another major? I don't think so. I don't think so. I hope so.

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Tiger's competitive career is over. Yes, I think so. On Sunday, April 14th, 2019, the weather in New York City was unseasonably warm.

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One of the spring days where it felt like winter is finally in the rearview. So I went for a walk around my neighborhood at around two 30.

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I got a push notification to iPhone. The New York Times wanted me to know that after 14 years, Tiger Woods had won the Masters. I honestly didn't even know that it was M. Sunday or that Tiger was still playing golf, but seeing this news left me with all these questions about how Tiger got there and those questions led to this show. So today we finally arrived at the 2018 Masters, the scene of one of the most improbable comebacks in sports history.

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And in this episode, we're going to find out how did he do it? How did Tiger, at age forty three, after years of pain and sorrow, manage to rewrite his own story?

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This is episode nine, Return to Glory. Albert, hello. Hey, Jordan. Well, Tiger has made it back to Augusta, the site of his very first major back in 1997.

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Some of the best shots that ever pull off have been here. And it's just a very special place and I get excited about it.

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And as you and I learned in our research for this episode that tonight Masters Week kicked off with the usual pre tournament press conference.

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Yeah. And Tiger seemed relaxed and at ease at this one. He gamely answered every question from reporters, even ones about his wardrobe.

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Hard hitting journalism question here. But are the mock turtlenecks things for real this week? And what all goes into that decision? Was it your idea or Nike's? While I thought it was a pretty neat look back in the day, I, I like Tiger's grin here.

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He's like, yeah, a mock turtleneck.

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That's my signature look. Yeah.

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So it's like a turtleneck, but with a shorter, looser collar.

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And Tiger was wearing one the last time he'd won the Masters in 2005.

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I was probably a little bit better shape back in those days, but I've won events where in the mock and you'll see it on Thursday.

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Karen of The New York Times was also in the press scrum that day. Right. She's the reporter who we've heard from before who profiled Tiger as a dad all those years ago.

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Exactly. And that day she was curious to hear about Tiger's mindset.

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Tiger, do you feel like you need to win here again? Or would you do you just want to win here again? Well, I don't really need to win again. I really want to. With that, Tiger flashed a big smile. So, Albert, going into this tournament, Tiger seems like he was finally happy, healthy and excited to play again on golf's biggest stage for sure, after his long decade of scandal and struggle, it's finally back to golf.

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And I remember the stretch of days very well. I was still working as an editor at Sports Illustrated here in New York, and our issue was due at the printer's on Monday, the day after the Masters wrapped. But we were only planning to run a big story on the tournament if Tiger won it.

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And did you actually think Tiger could win? No, absolutely not, Tiger. He was a long shot and just going by betting odds going into the tournament, Tiger had about an eight percent chance of winning.

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That's basically like our chances of winning, right? Exactly. And at this point, it's been years since Tiger was ranked in the top 10 golfers in the world and over a decade since he last won a major.

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Yeah, he was emerging from a really bad place physically in 2017. Tiger had a spinal fusion surgery.

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It was his fourth back surgery, and he didn't know when or if he'd ever compete again.

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Golf was not in my my near future or even the distant future. I knew I was going to be a part of the game, but playing the game again even was I couldn't even do that with my son. Charlie could even play in the backyard. That's Tiger.

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The night before the 2019, Masters kicked off accepting something called the Ben Hogan Award, which is sort of like the still standing trophy.

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Ben Hogan was a player who returned to golf after a horrible car accident, and the award in his name goes to golfers who have, quote, continued to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.

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And Tiger certainly fit this description. But his spinal recovery, it went surprisingly well.

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In twenty eighteen, he was physically able to play a full season for the first time in years.

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And as we heard at the end of our last episode, Tiger even had some strong showings that year.

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So he still had a little spark in him, right? Yeah, kind of leading up to the 2019 Masters. Tiger was playing well. He even won his first tournament in five years. But it was far from his old days of domination. He was basically like an aging rock star on a comeback tour. You don't expect any new hits. You're just happy to relive a little of the old magic.

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Right. So the expectations for Tiger were modest going into Masters weekend, but Tiger, like he always is, was still the player to watch.

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Yeah, hey, everyone. Michael Collins, you feeling that, guess what? Thursday, first round of the Masters and today it's for real.

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It was time for the start of actual Masters Golf. Michael Collins kicked off the live coverage for ESPN.

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It is an absolutely perfect day. Yes. There's some clouds in the sky. Yes, there's a little bit of wind, but it is a really fun time out here to give us.

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The national tiger teed off at 11 a.m. and over the course of the day, he missed some pretty makeable putts, but he had some triumphs to. His goal second from Tigers' on the 14th hole in front of a crowd of spectators that were basically breathing down his neck, he had a tough shot.

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He was essentially aiming through a row of trees.

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And look at this.

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Getting better by the second and going to have an opportunity to make 30 at 40, Tiger managed to hit the ball through a small gap in the trees and got it on the green way out there in the bottom.

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So saying if anybody understands what's going on on that green, it's that gentleman right there.

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Tiger made a long putt to birdie that hole. And what the announcer is saying is that Tiger knows Augusta inside and out. And he was going to have to rely on his experience to actually contend after day one, Tiger was in the mix.

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He was just four shots off the lead with ten players ahead of him. And previously in his peak, Tiger had a competitive advantage in scenarios like this one. He was so good it could be downright demoralizing. There was this generation that grew up with Tiger where they almost developed an inferiority complex because they could play beautiful golf and lose by 11 strokes to Tiger.

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And it was almost as if you could notice players Wilt team. It was almost a physical sensation that you could. Feel so there was the psychological component where players were used to.

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Tiger, if he was anywhere near the lead game over that, of course, is the voice of reporter Karen Crouse, who we heard from earlier in the show, and she told us that by 2019, there was a new, very different dynamic between Tiger and his competition, this whole generation that was attracted to the game because of Tiger, who watched how fearlessly Tiger attack courses and took it to his competition.

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They looked at that and modeled themselves after him. So they're coming at the game rather fearlessly and rather aggressively. They come of age, they come on the tour. They're fearless and they don't even know to be intimidated by Tiger.

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And frankly, these younger players, they had a big edge on Tiger. He wasn't going to dominate. He needed to just keep up.

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So after his steady start on Thursday, Tiger was on to the second round where Albert disaster almost struck, literally a shock.

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But something happened to Tiger when he was coming out of there. Yeah, there was a freak accident on the 14th hole.

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A security guard slipped while running to control the crowd. He slid on the wet grass right into Tiger's ankle.

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Watch the slip. Here he comes. Oh, he was lucky. The heel was in the air.

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After the guard made contact, Tiger tripped and he winced. But ultimately, he shook it off and birdied on his next shot.

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It turned into a great hole for him, but honestly, it was a close call. Tiger could have just as easily ended up with a torn ACL and said goodbye to his whole tournament.

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But instead, on the next hole, we got to see Tiger flash a bit of his old mojo tiger for his birdie.

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Tiger got his second birdie in a row, putting him just one shot back of a lead. We even got the signature tiger fist pump.

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But there are signs, subtle signs. The way Tiger used to play golf, Tiger ended two tied for sixth place, and the next day in round three, he kept inching up the leaderboard.

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Yeah, on Saturday, things were getting serious for Tiger. He still wasn't in the lead, but he was closer than ever.

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Yeah, it was crunch time. Tiger entered the final day of the tournament, tied for second place with 29 year old Tony Pheno.

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And for those of us who are covering the story at Sports Illustrated, it was dawning on us that this could be a very, very big story.

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Yep. Tiger was in striking distance of his first green jacket, 14 years and all bets are off. With Tiger in the hunt, the final round of the Masters was once again must see TV. Good morning from the Masters and what a day this is going to be the early start with the leader, Francesco Molinari, now just leaving the practice facility. He'll be playing today with Tiger Woods, who's two back by now, surely you recognize this voice.

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It's CBS's Jim Nance kicking off the final round coverage.

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And we've heard from Nance in previous episodes. This was his third and fourth year covering the Masters.

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And as Nance mentioned, tee time had been moved up.

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This was due to looming whether Tiger and his fellow competitors were playing under threat of thunderstorms the day had this kind of surreal quality to it with Tiger actually in contention and the extra early start and washed out gray skies just added to that feeling. At half past nine in the morning, Tiger stepped up for his first shot.

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Oh, please. Tiger Woods, no baby Tiger was in his Sunday best black pants, a black Nike cap and yes, the red mock turtleneck and this familiar final round outfit, he honestly looked timeless.

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Will this be the day that is recent as just two years ago no one ever thought would happen again? Tiger with a major. Tiger was trying to do something he'd never actually done before, come from behind in the final round to win a major right and Tiger Woods group with two other guys at the top of the leaderboard, Tony Pheno and Francesco Molinari, who was coming off a win at the British Open.

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Both Molinari and Pheno are considerably younger than Tiger. And we talked earlier about how today's younger players never face Tiger at his most intimidating stage. But now that it was Sunday and Tiger was in the mix, the energy around him was electric.

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And the crowd's let's just say they weren't there to see Molinari or female walking to that first tee.

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I've never I've never heard this many people in my life. I've never seen this many people. And it was kind of a surreal feeling getting to that first tee. You know, that first the first tee shot, I was definitely nervous. That's Pheno now in an interview with golf dotcoms podcast's subpar and like a lot of his peers, phenyl was a huge Tiger fan growing up.

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Tiger's Masters win in 1997 inspired Phil now to get into golf. Finals is also the first PGA player of Tongan and Samoan descent. So like Tiger, he stands out as one of the few people of color on the tour.

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And so that final round final tried to break the ice with his childhood hero. He said hi and good luck to Tiger on the first hole, but didn't get a response.

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And he continued to get the cold shoulder over the next few holes to we finally get to the seventh hole and tiger tiger walking next to each other off the tee and and I said, Hey, Tiger, you know, it's kind of awkward. I'm like, how come he's not talking to me? I should say something to him. So I'm like, Hey, Tiger has, you know, how's the kids? You know? And he's like, oh, they're doing fine.

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And he just laser eyed straight, you know, straight down the fairway and just kept on walking. And from that point on, I said, well, I guess I know where he is, you know where his attitudes are. And I'm not talking for the rest of the day. So he pretty much still told me with a straight face, leave me alone.

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So Tiger, he really had his game face on the old killer instinct kicked in. It did.

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And they were enduring a stretch at Augusta where any shot can land in the water. When they arrived at the 12th hole, Tiger was still two shots back. And the twelfth is a Gustas most well-known hole. It's the shortest, but also the most treacherous. It's notorious for unpredictable winds to sand bunkers and a creek that runs in front of the green. This hole is part of what they call Amen corner, because when you make a shot that stays dry.

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Amen. Exactly.

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And this stretch of holes has decided a lot of winners. Molinari was up first.

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That was just so weak and it doesn't go so well for him, the shot falls short and lands in the water and when Pheno steps up.

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Just a little light on scene out of. Unbelievable. He has similar luck when it's Tiger's turn, he plays it differently than the other guys. That was safe going safe that one, wasn't it? That's what big jet would say if in doubt you go in between the two bunkers, Tiger Woods went with the Nicklaus strategy over the central banker. Absolutely. Jack, that was a very old school. Smart move from Target.

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Tiger channels Jack Nicklaus for a safer shot than the younger version of himself might have taken. And it was a huge turning point because as Molinari and Final Double Bogeyed Tiger had a shot for par.

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Yes, to a solid start outside the whole. It's kind of slow, isn't it, you got to stand up and crunch this. For the first time in the tournament, Tiger is tied for the lead and on the 16th hole he flashes a bit of that old tiger magic.

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And when he won here the last time in 2005, Tiger Woods had a one shot lead. He stood on his tee. He also had an eight iron. He does this time as well.

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It's an astonishing shot. Tiger hits the ball from 170 yards away and. It ends up two feet away from the hall when he needs it most. Tiger can still pull out shots that no one else does. So far, the Tigers hunt them down and now he's gone in for the kill.

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He birdies on the next shot and takes the outright lead by now it was two on the East Coast and it felt like the whole world was tuned into this epic five hour drama and this golf tournament was turning into a human drama.

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Half of the shots now were these really extended close ups of Tiger's face, which was completely stoic. He was all focused, but you could occasionally see beads of sweat rolling down his face and even some on his shirt. And it wasn't from the heat. It was the only evidence that Tiger felt the enormity of this moment. At the 17th hole, the camera cut to the crowd to a close up of a small group looking on these faces were both familiar and new.

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These were the people in Tiger's life.

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Now his mom is there, the Teda son, Charlie in the foreground, daughter Sam in the back, his girlfriend, Erica. This has been one of the biggest goals for Tiger in this remarkable comeback, and that was for his children to experience this, for them to see their father win a major title.

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The last time Tiger had won a major. His daughter, Sam, was a baby and his son Charlie wasn't even born yet. Whatever they knew of Tiger's first 14 majors, that was second hand. In fact, this was their very first time visiting Augusta to cheer their dad on in this final stretch. Sam Woods, now eleven and Charlie now ten, and dressed in black and red, just like his dad.

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And it was also kind of startling to see Teda again after all these years. She was in her mid 70s now with fully gray hair. The last time we'd seen her on a stage like this, it was hugging Tiger after his public apology.

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Also at the family was Tiger's girlfriend of nearly two years, Erica Herman, Sam, Charlie Teda and Erica.

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The four of them looked on with the rest of the crowd as Tiger walked up to the green on the 18th hole with a two shot lead.

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Think of all the youngsters who were inspired by his greatness, a generation that in many cases we're seeing compete on the worldwide stage today and now introducing to a new wave of youngsters what it's like to see Tiger Woods in this position at a major.

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All Tiger needed was an easy three foot putt to close it out. As he set up for the shot, the camera cut once more to Teda Lips, tight looking tense. She was gripping her grandson's shoulders. Little Charlie and his backwards baseball cap looked on and clapped. This is the minute. Well, millions around the world had waited for. Waited four years. Jim Nance, who announced Tiger's very first win at Augusta over 20 years ago, he would do it again here.

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Many doubted we'd ever see it, but here it is, the return to glory. The putt went in, no problem, and the crowd erupted immediately, of course, but at first Tiger's reaction was subtle. He gave a small fist pump and gently bent over one leg to retrieve the ball from the cup. He couldn't resist the crowd for long, though. And why should he? He turned to face his screaming fans and threw his arms up ball in one hand club.

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In the other, eyes shut, mouth open. Peer bliss.

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Before Tiger could finish politely shaking hands with his opponents and hugging his caddie, Joe LaCava, the crowd was chanting his name. The victory looked like it was starting to sink in, Tiger paced around the green, a broad grin plastered on his face, except in the brief moments where he looked tearful. He gave a few more fist pumping as he strode into the crowd.

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It was time to celebrate with the people who mattered to him most. Tiger walked until he saw his son. He scooped Charlie up and let out a cry as they embraced in a long, tight hug their red shirts pressed together. Next up was Tina. Even through all the cheers, you can still make out Teda saying, I'm so proud of you after hugging his daughter Sam and girlfriend Erica. The hugs kept coming for Tiger until it was time to head through the crowd.

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Karen Crouse was there that day, still on assignment for The New York Times. Her story on Monday made the front page above the fold with the headline Triumph Ends Woods Years in Wilderness.

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Seen Tiger celebrate with his family. That moment stuck with Karen.

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I get goose bumps just thinking about it because that was the most human will ever see Tiger.

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And I'm glad that he was able to have that moment for himself.

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But I'm also glad that we were allowed in to see that, you know, that we saw that side of him, even if it was just for a minute.

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Tiger rested a hand on his son's shoulder as they walked together toward Butler Cabin, where the green jacket was waiting. Charlie grinned through his braces, looking truly tiny beside his tall champion father.

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I never thought we'd see anything that could rival the hug with his father in nineteen ninety seven, but we just did. That will be the greatest scene in golf ever, Jim Nantz and that dog with his children, if that doesn't bring a tear to your eye. If you're a parent, you're not human. Now, the whole euphoria of everything, the patrons, his emotion. The chanting, we will never. See, anything is exhilarating, is fantastic.

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Congratulations, Tiger. Unbelievable.

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That same afternoon on deadline at Sports Illustrated, we basically tore up the issue. Not only did we write up a big story, but just a few hours later we finalized the cover and posted it on Instagram. It's Tiger on the 18th hole. His arms raised, letting out a primal scream. He looks like a prizefighter. After a knockout, we grappled with the cover line, trying to find the right language to capture the moment and ultimately landed on what felt right.

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Nothing. The cover doesn't have any headlines at all because it just felt like no words could do the moment justice. Well, the rest of the world sure had a lot to say. Tiger's name was tweeted almost 60000 times that Sunday. Everyone from Serena Williams to Jack Nicklaus to LeBron James tweeted their congratulations to Tiger.

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And in a rare moment of agreement, so did both President Trump and Obama and sports commentators went basically berserk.

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In all my years of covering sports, I have never seen an athlete fall so far as Tiger Woods did, and rise all the way back to the very top, not just to the to the very top of his sport and beat as loaded a leaderboard as I have ever seen in Masters history.

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That's Skip Bayless on Fox Sports. And Albert, he's getting out.

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What separates this win from Tiger's 14 prior majors, which is everything and everyone he had to overcome to get there?

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Exactly. Tiger had to fight for this one, the grit and determination it took to battle his way back from so many low points. That's what people really responded to.

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Well, I think it hit everybody emotionally. I mean, I think that's what that victory was, was emotion being released, his emotion, but also spectators emotions.

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A warm welcome back to him, Diaz, who we've heard from a few times in the series and who first met Tiger when he was just 14.

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Just like in 1997, Hymie was at the Masters to soak up Tiger's big triumph in person.

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Everybody's had struggles, but his struggle was on a grander scale and he was doing it publicly. And we worship our heroes. I mean, the greatest heroes are based on great achievements and overcoming difficulties. And so that's what he did. And I think he he showed tremendous character and tremendous growth in terms of what he got to, you know, this moment of Tiger's comeback.

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It's maybe Tiger's most relatable moment. For the first time, he was the underdog. He worked so hard to come all the way back and he was rewarded for that. And that's what made the moment so unexpectedly moving to me.

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Tiger also had suddenly blown open the door on what seemed possible for his career after his jaw dropping comeback. Everyone, myself included, was left wondering what would be next for Tiger. Next time on All American Today, it's my privilege to award our nation's highest civilian honor to one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports, first of all, you're never going to say who's the greatest of all time no more.

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Everybody was talking shit once. I was like, oh, no, don't remember that. And then he fucking came and won that green jacket. That's what I'm running on my album. all-American is a production from Stitcher. This episode was written and produced by Janay Palmer and Albert Chen with additional writing and production by Jordan Bell.

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Janay Palmer is also our story. Editor Casey Holford makes this episode and composed our theme music. Our senior producer is Abigail Keel. Our executive producers are Chris Bannan and Daisy Rozario. Special thanks to Lindsey Krater Will for her time and Pro Tools skills to Peter Clowney for his editing support and to our fact checker Kelvin Byas, who fact check this episode while recovering from appendicitis get well soon. Remember, we want to hear from you. Send us your feedback and your ideas for who we should cover next season to all-American at Stitcher dot com.

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And if you like all American, please read, review and subscribe to the show wherever you listen. Thanks. Being below par is good only in golf, though, bowling, golf in life, you want to be above par. Yeah, you're going to be above par but like.

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Doesn't compute, all right, stitcher.