Tour Confidential: Was Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters win the greatest golf moment of the decade?

December 29, 2019

Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week we discuss the greatest golf moment of the decade, look ahead to breakout players for 2020 and dish out our best golfy resolutions.

1. Much has happened in golf in the past decade, but we might have witnessed a strong contender for greatest moment of the 2010s last April at Augusta National. What say you, was Tiger’s Masters triumph the game’s best moment of the past decade?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Well, it was the best big moment, but a note about it: he built to it. Honda and Tampa. Carnoustie, Bellerieve. East Lake. Tiger’s golf is about the work and the steps.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): No doubt it had the widest reverberations. I can think of some seriously heart-tugging moments (Amy Bockerstette’s par with Gary Woodland in Phoenix); and some nearly as electric ones (that Reed/Rory singles match in the Ryder Cup put the crowd in a frenzy, as did Tiger’s win at East Lake). But Tiger at Augusta was the one moment that had my friends who don’t play golf eager to talk about golf. A reminder of Tiger’s unique reach.

Sean Zak, senior editor (@Sean_Zak): It was definitely the biggest moment. I’d pick it apart, though, and call Woods’ walk with Charlie to the scoring area the best moment. All the chills.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@AlanShipnuck): Phil winning the Masters for a cancer-stricken Amy in 2010. Rory bouncing back to win the Open at Congo just months after his self-immolation in Amen Corner. Spieth’s epic bogey and then back-nine charge at Birkdale. Shane Lowry being carried home by the singing of the Irish island. These were all indelible moments but Tiger’s win, and the outpouring of emotion surrounding it, is on an entirely different level.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): It would be really hard to find another time that a golf event transcended the sport in a similar fashion, like, ever. I wasn’t alive for Jack’s Masters win in ‘86, though that might have had a similar vibe. Tiger Woods is among the biggest athletes of all time; the crowning moment of his comeback was the sports story of the year and definitely the golf story of the decade, by far.

Feels crazy to say this but we started the decade without female members at Augusta National. We ended it with women amateurs balling out on the legendary course, streamed live on TV.

2. What is the most significant way in which the game has changed/evolved over the last 10 years, either at the pro level or for recreational players?

Bamberger: On Tour, driving accuracy is close to meaningless. But the biggest change I fear is the attitude about the rules, at least at times, in places. Over the course of the decade the attitude seems to be shifting to catch-me-if-you-can. That’s troubling. On a more positive note, more golfers have more appreciation for simpler golf, less everything. Less is more. It really is.

Sens: At the pro level: distance. It has altered everything. Not just the way the best players play, but also the courses and setups that are viable for competitions. To Michael’s point about simpler golf — it’s had a great, corrective influence on course design, not just at the blowout resorts but at the smaller, local level. The fact that a muni here in Oakland, Calif., (Corica Park) was redone in the manner of an Aussie sandbelt course says a lot about this shift.

Zak: Feels crazy to say this but we started the decade without female members at Augusta National. We ended it with women amateurs balling out on the legendary course, streamed live on TV. Women members are now allowed at Muirfield, too. Tadd Fujikawa felt comfortable enough to tell us all about his personal story. Relatively speaking, these were tiny news stories, but they weigh a ton.

Dethier: On Tour, I’d say the tech has made the biggest difference. Everything from increased ShotLink and Strokes Gained data to Trackman to 3D imaging and all manner of biomechanical analysis has made players (in general) better and smarter. For the recreational golfer the biggest differences lie in the golf courses; there has been a constriction since the pre-recession boom, though there’s a silver lining that newer properties are better conceived.

Shipnuck: I like all of the above answers. I would add that there seems to be a more widespread appreciation for the game among those who play it. Water and land is becoming more scarce, we’re all overwhelmed by our phones, life moves faster, we’re all busier — being on the golf course with friends is the perfect antidote. The movement to loosen up and just have fun on the course is spreading and that’s a great evolution from the stuffiness of yore.

3. While we already got a taste of the 2019-20 season with the fall events, the Sentry Tournament of Champions kicks off the new calendar-year season this week in Hawaii. Which player — could be a youngster or a surprising resurgent veteran — do you foresee making waves in 2020?

Bamberger: Jordan Spieth. Xander. Cantlay. Patrick Reed, one way or the other.

Sens: I wouldn’t have said this even right after the Masters, but following the show he put on this fall, Tiger.

Zak: Matthew Wolff is the easy and obvious answer. Excited to watch him play the majors (and contend).

Shipnuck: Hard to believe Viktor Hovland hasn’t won yet. That is going to change. Soon.

Dethier: I’m fascinated by the future of Matt Wallace.

4. What’s most likely to happen in 2020: Brooks Koepka wins another major, Tiger Woods wins major No.16 or Jordan Spieth snaps his 0-for-55 slump (and counting) and wins at least one PGA Tour event?

Bamberger: Absolutely Spieth, on math alone. So many more chances.

Sens: Can’t argue with Michael’s math, but I’m going to place a longer-shot wager on Tiger.

Zak: Spieth is going to get it done again. He’ll have one of those Spieth Weeks where he can’t miss and ends up making 300 feet of putts and wins by three.

Shipnuck: I’m all in on Brooks. He’s going to win the Masters, because Brooks.

Dethier: Yeah, Spieth has a better chance in 20-ish tries than Tiger or Brooks do in four. What’s interesting is that a couple of months ago, you’d have said Brooks was more likely to win a 2020 major than Tiger — in a landslide. At the moment it feels like more of a toss-up, although I guess that’s me discounting Koepka again, which has never worked well for us.

5. Adam Scott was among the pros who declined to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, and he recently said he’s not so sure about 2020 in Tokyo, either. “I’m just going to take my time and see,” Scott said. “I’ve made it clear it’s not my priority, but I wouldn’t rule it out.” Rory McIlroy was among the high-profile pros who also bowed out of the 2016 Games, but he’s seemed to change course about 2020. Do you think more pros will be receptive to the 2020 Games than what we saw in 2016, and should they feel obligated to play?

Bamberger: No one should feel obligated to play, but Tiger’s intense desire to do so will spread far and wide, I suspect.

Sens: Obligated? No. But there will definitely be more interest. Not just because 2016 was a success but also because there won’t be the same fear-mongering that there was around the Games in Rio. Zika. Crime. Unfamiliarity about Brazil in general — those were unfortunate factors that kept a lot of players away.

Zak: I think the smarter bunch of pros view the groupthink from 2016 as a mistake. The top Americans all seem interested, and the fancy prize of a gold medal is just so rare that it’s worth playing for regardless of the jam-packed schedule.

Shipnuck: Memo to Adam Scott: go away. We don’t want you or need you. I’m so sick of the top players’ B.S. around the Games. Their selfish fear-mongering in 2016 was a monumental embarrassment for golf. They’ll sell their souls and fly around the world for a meaningless tournament in Saudi Arabia but are too cool to be a part of the most venerated and widely watched athletic competition on the planet? Every golfer in Rio had an incredible experience. Japan will build on that. If any players don’t want to be a part of it they simply need to shut their mouths and step aside — plenty of others will treasure the experience.

Dethier: Tough to top Shippy here; I’ll just add that nearly every athlete on the planet dreams of playing in the Olympic Games. The idea that golfers wouldn’t care about the Olympics is just illogical; it’s weird and ultimately won’t last.

6. Last but not least, Happy New Year! What’s one sensible (and attainable!) 2020 resolution for golfers of all abilities?

Bamberger: Buy an Orange Whip and keep it in your car and make 18 lefty and 18 righty swings before going to the first tee.

Sens: Play ready golf. Four hours is way, way more than enough, no matter how well or how poorly you play.

Zak: Yell “Fore!” more often. I struggle with this myself — sure, it’s kinda embarrassing — but there’s no reason to hold back. Would love to see pros take this seriously.

Shipnuck: Remember that on every single stroke the club is accelerating to the ball, especially on chips, putts and 3/4-swing short-irons.

Dethier: Play more! We’re all in this because golf is fun, satisfying, challenging, good exercise, stimulating, social and unconquerable (or at least one of the above). Sneak in an evening nine, solo or with company. Only keep score if you feel like it. Golf doesn’t have to be an all-day endeavor, so if it’s something you like to do, find a way.

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