On May 21, Tiger Woods declared that the AT&T National was about a lot more than golf.
His statement proved to be as true as the 9-iron on the final hole that sealed the victory for him.
This was a tournament of “minor miracles,” as goler Bo Van Pelt described it. It was one where a grounds crew left the course after 9 p.m. on Friday and was back before 1 a.m. to remove more than 40 fallen trees ripped down by a storm that has left parts of Washington, D.C. powerless days later.
There were the countless tributes to the military, ranging from 30,000 complimentary tickets given to military members to a “We Salute our Heroes Wall” where thousands would scribble notes of thanks and encouragement on canvas that would eventually be sent to local military hospitals. Marines became starters, naval officers turned to caddies, still others took duties as flag holders. Flying high above the 18th green were the colors of every branch of the military, and flying even higher during the Wednesday opening ceremonies were military helicopters as 2011 Medal of Honor recipient Srgt. First Class Leroy A. Petry delivered his remarks.
Then there was Billy Hurley III, a Naval Academy graduate and Tour plebe, who just five years ago was aboard a guided missile cruiser called the USS CHUNG-HOON in the Persian Gulf, and was just one shot back during the front nine on the final day.
“I know the sacrifices they make,” said Woods of the men and women in the armed forces at a press conference on May 21. “It’s tough. It’s really tough on the individual. It’s extremely difficult on the families … trust me, I appreciate everything they do.”
Indeed, there was much more going on than a few golf shots. There were the 125 charities benefitting and thousands of dollars for scholarships being raised to add names of recipients to the list of 25 Earl Woods Scholars.
But not to be forgotten was the golf shots. On the course was a tournament in which a Tiger passed a Golden Bear, where a former naval officer earned his first top 10 and one in which Jason Day, whose first-born child could have come at any moment, took eighth. It was one that was held at a course that played twice as difficult as it did at the U.S. Open, typically billed as golf’s toughest test.
It was a tournament where a whisper carried for miles on Saturday at the eerily empty Congressional and where the roars of more than 46,000 could be heard from River Road as Woods began to take shape as the 14 major title holder he is.
“He’s playing the best golf in the world right now,” said Van Pelt, Mr. Top 10, who picked up his sixth top-10 finish of the season, right on pace to defend his 2010 title of most top-10 finishes without a win. The victory propelled Woods to a spot he hasn’t seen in 100 weeks: the No. 1 rank in the FedEx Cup.
“It was just a matter of time,” Woods said. “I could see the pieces coming together … Give me a little bit of time, and I feel like this is what I can do.”
While his $1,170,000 in winnings were what boosted him to the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup, zero of that will be seen in his bank account. He has already turned it over to the Tiger Woods Foundation.
“I could be dead here in the next 30 seconds, but I want this foundation to live on for perpetuity,” Woods said. “I want them to have the ability to be able to send kids off to college, to make their lives better.”
More than a golf shot indeed.