Late last year, the young man pictured here with Tiger Woods was stabbed to death. The senseless crime left many people reeling but resolute — Tiger among them

January 20, 2017

Tiger Woods knows how to smile for the camera. He’s one of the most famous people in the world, and all manner of fans—Dubai pro-am partners, AJGA golfers, Nike factory workers, European Ryder Cup opponents, U.S. presidents—want to share a frame with him. A nanosecond with a shelf life of forever.

On the morning of May 20, 2013, at 9:26:48, a high school senior named Marcus Edwards, an after-school regular at a Tiger Woods Foundation learning center in Washington, D.C., posed with Tiger for the picture on this page. It was part of a professional shoot, organized by the foundation.

Two great sets of teeth, right? And a confident-looking kid. The neatly folded sleeves and the fresh haircut. The earring, with its hint of urban cool, and the extra-credit glasses. As for Tiger, that’s not his paint-by-numbers smile. No. He’s having a good time. Here’s this Marcus Edwards, all skin and bones, eagerness oozing through his skin, intimately draping his arm over the legend’s shoulder like they’re brothers—and Tiger’s okay with it.

If you’ve seen Tiger wading into a sea of spectators, you know he’s not exactly the gimme-some-skin type. He likes his space. But on that May morning, at that moment, he was at ease. You can guess his thought: Dude’s cheeky, but I like him. Tiger and Marcus, drenched in sunshine. It’s all promise.

The last outdoor photos of Marcus Edwards were nighttime crime-scene photographs taken on Sept. 19, 2016, at approximately 10:30 p.m., in a crosswalk at the intersection of Loch Raven Boulevard and Woodbourne Avenue, a busy intersection in a middle-class section of northeast Baltimore dotted with churches, medical facilities and small apartment complexes. It was there that Marcus, a 21-year-old sociology major at Morgan State University, was stabbed in the chest, fatally. His death has left Marcus’s mother, his five siblings—and everybody who knew him—reeling.

Including Tiger. He had met Marcus maybe four times. He knew his name. Marcus Edwards wasn’t a golfer. He wasn’t particularly athletic. But he was a nice young man trying to make something of himself, and that was enough for Tiger. That would be enough for any of us, wouldn’t it?

Shortly after the murder, Ryan Diener, a Baltimore homicide detective, was back at the scene of the crime, taping award information onto telephone polls. He’s a deacon at his church, a white cop living in a former HUD row home he’d rehabbed, in a beleaguered black Baltimore neighborhood called Sandtown. He is bound and determined to find Marcus’s murderer. But as Martin Luther King Day came and went, Diener had no suspects.

This he does know. Marcus’s death was not connected to Baltimore’s street drug trade, and it was not part of a robbery. How Marcus Edwards died seems unconnected to how he lived.

“What a sad one,” Diener’s boss, Stanley Brandford, said recently. A moment earlier, a suspect from another case had passed by, escorted and handcuffed. “The kid wanted to be a cop,” the criminal investigation chief said mournfully.

Marcus’s mother, Nicole Ausberry-Brooks, raised Marcus in Washington, 40 miles from Baltimore’s police headquarters and two miles from the U.S. Supreme Court. She goes to Augusta for family reunions. The Masters is not part of her life. Still, she was touched by the Sunday morning condolence call she received from Tiger, and will be forever grateful for the academic help Marcus received from Eric Moore, a Tiger Woods Foundation teacher. Eric, black and gray Salomon trail shoes on his feet, would walk Marcus to his bus stop at the end of their long days. (A hero in our midst.) Marcus’s death, Tiger told Nicole, had left “a hole” in him. “He was one of us,” he told her.

While at work—in his 20s, in his 30s, in his prime—Tiger wore his ruthlessness like a cloak. Winning by one or two is great, he told Charlie Rose last year, “but it’s a lot better if you win it by five or six.” His forebears (Jack, Arnold, Hagen) did not think that way, but Tiger was the loneliest of lone wolves. He saw no useful purpose in putting his humanity on public display.

That was then. At the end of last year, Tiger turned 41, and this year his daughter turns 10. In October, Woods wrote a letter to his TWF people about Marcus, about “the division, violence and racial tension in many of the communities where our kids live.” It’s a stunning letter, about, really, the frailty of life.

After the Tiger Woods Foundation was established in 1996, Tiger’s father predicted that Tiger’s work with the charity would be the most important thing he does. (Earl loved the swami hat and wore it well.) In that October letter, Tiger wrote about the foundation’s purpose, to educate young people and to equip them with “the mindset” to persevere. He wrote, “This is our stand.”

Our stand. Beautiful.