‘Everybody just stopped … we were watching history.’ From Nick Saban to Bill Murray, stars recall Tiger’s 2019 Masters win


Editor’s note: This was originally published on April 8.

A year later, even Tiger Woods says the reaction to his win at the 2019 Masters “blew his mind.”

We asked some of the most recognizable names on the planet — celebrities, athletes, coaches, a former secretary of state — to relive the moment, to tell us where they were, what they saw, how they felt.

In their words, they tell the story of Tiger Woods’ victory at Augusta National.

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Condoleezza Rice

“I was so excited when Tiger Woods won the Masters. As a matter of fact, the last couple holes after he birdied 16, and he had a two-stroke lead, but I was still so nervous. I so wanted him to win it. I wanted him to win it because of all that Tiger had been through. He’s a good friend and it was a wonderful story of redemption. I also wanted him to win for golf. Golf needed Tiger to win another major. So when that putt dropped, I almost don’t even remember my emotions I was so excited. I was excited, too, because I’ve known him for so long. As I tell him, I knew him as a skinny freshman at Stanford.

“My favorite Tiger story was when I was provost at the university, I oversaw athletics. The athletic director came in one day, he was so excited and he said, ‘Great news, Tiger Woods committed to Stanford.’ I said, ‘Who’s Tiger Woods?’ He said, ‘Tiger Woods is only going to be the greatest golfer in history.’ I said, ‘Good, does he have good grades?’ He said, ‘Yes, he has good grades.’ That was how I first became aware of Tiger Woods. He would become a tremendous part of the Stanford story and I am so proud of the fact that he still carries a Stanford yardage book. So when he won the Masters, it was also ‘Go Cardinal.'”


Bill Murray



Actor Bill Murray discusses his experience in 2019 while watching Tiger Woods win the Masters.

Michael Pena

“The reason that I am golfing is because of Tiger. Not to be too basic, I saw somebody, some brown dude playing, and I’m like, ‘This is amazing. He looks like an athlete.’ So, obviously, I am a Tiger fan. I was in a hotel room and I had an appointment for something, on a Sunday. I was basically like, he’s going to fall off, something’s going to happen, just because luck hasn’t been that good to him as of late. So I thought either he was going to crumble or something was going to happen, blah, blah, blah. But … he’s still hanging in there. I’m going to call [my appointment] and say I’m going to be a little bit late. Don’t worry about it, though. I’m going to be there. So there’s like four or five holes to go [and I call] and I say I’m not going to make it, because even if he doesn’t win I want to see it.

How to watch classic Masters this week on ESPN

“I didn’t cry, but I got a little teary-eyed, you know, for all the dad bods out there. Imagine how many dad bods had a tear in their eye. He’s hope for all the dad bods out there.”

Dierks Bentley

“To see that intensity in his face, that passion. … No matter what you do for work, or as a dad, it’s the kind of passion you want to have for your job.

“The guy has been through the ringer. Being an older guy myself, you’re always pulling for those guys that have had that life experience. To see a guy like Tiger come back up to the top again, it’d be hard to root against that. I think the collective ‘Heck, yeah’ from across the county when everyone saw that.

“Not that he’s older, but he’s older, and to see him out there competing. He’s the reason why a lot of these young kids got into golf. It’s good to see the leader up there showing them how to do it.”

Larry The Cable Guy

“It’s kind of like when astronauts landed on the moon, everybody knows what they was doing. It was an incredible feat. I will say, I love Tiger, but I was watching the [University of Nebraska] baseball team at that point. I switched back every now and then and I’d see a shot or two but I watched most of it on replay.

“I love the underdog. When you hear people saying he’ll never win again, he can’t do it anymore, he’ll never do it again, what a great [in your] face … people say stuff like that to me, you’ll never do this, you’ll never do that. Well, 11 albums, five platinum, six gold … [in your] face, baby. I love it. I’m happy for him. I love when people say to somebody you’ll never do it, you can’t do it, and then they do it. That’s awesome.”


Michael Phelps

“I was standing behind him on 16 when he almost aced it and I was standing next to him on the tee box on 12 on Sunday. For me, it was one of the coolest moments in sports. I feel like I kind of know what it feels like to go up, down and then climb it back up. To do that, I know how difficult that is, and I know how amazing it feels you get back to the top. It was an experience for me that’s tough to put into words.

“He changed the game, elevated it to where it is today. Having him back, with all these young guys coming up, it’s pretty crazy, it’s pretty epic to watch. To see Tiger really enjoying it, laughing and joking out there, it’s fun to watch.”


Denny Hamlin

“We got at least 21 guys out there who love to play golf. We go play golf on the weekend when we’re on our NASCAR weekends. I remember being on a group chat with all of our golf guys, which is a bunch of NASCAR drivers who are on a group chat talking about golf. We remember watching shot after shot, his amazing talent, and it just seemed like we were watching Tiger from 15, 20 years ago.”


Peyton Manning

“It’s something I think people will always remember where they were when Tiger did that. It’s so much more fun when he’s in the tournament. He brings all the A-listers out. He does. To do it down there, at Augusta, it was one for the ages.”

Eli Manning

“Whenever he’s in the mix, things get exciting and you get glued to that TV. So Saturday and Sunday, we had four kids running around. I got to a soccer game and pretend like I’m filming my daughter but I’m really streaming and watching the Masters and Tiger.”

Nick Saban

“Tiger is one of the greatest players of all time and he’s also one of the greatest competitors. I had the privilege, way back in the ’90s, when he had just won the Masters the first time, to play with him. It’s something I’ll never forget. He’s always been someone that I root for, too.

“All of us, as fans, always like to see a great comeback. … And for him to overcome all the injuries and all the difficulties he’s had and come back to win another major was probably as big an accomplishment as anyone had in that decade. It was a joy to watch.”

Emmitt Smith

“I felt relief for him. For a guy who has put in as much work as he has, from start to finish, and has gone through some things in terms of dealing with his body breaking down. As a former athlete myself, I understand how that stuff works. To see him battle through it all, see him mentally tough, holding on strong, and to persevere and get on the other side of it and win that green jacket again, it was great.

“He may not be able to do things like he used to because of the body itself, but mentally his game is as tough as anyone else’s. It was a message to everybody. No matter how old you might get, what the process might be, you have to get through the process in order to appreciate where you were, where you are and where you’re going.”

Larry Fitzgerald

“I was there for the first two days of the tournament then I watched the last two rounds at home. I was elated. To know him, the mental makeup, what the game means to him and how much he cares about the game of golf — not only for himself, but in terms of the growth of it. I think it’s something that’s really changed, from the young Tiger when it was, he had blinders on, singularly focused on his achievements to now.

“As a fan of the game, it gave the game a shot in the arm. There are people that love Tiger, there are people that hate Tiger. No matter what, people are going to watch Tiger. They are going to watch to see him play poorly, they are going to watch to see him do transcending things. He’s a polarizing figure. I heard people say Tiger moves the needle; Tiger is the needle.”

Marcus Allen

“I know it was important to him, but it was important to millions of people to see him come back and play the way he did. I didn’t see any trepidation in his face. He was on a mission. It’s like being in the huddle with a quarterback. If he’s not panicking, neither do you. But if you are sitting on the sideline and your coach is like, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do?’ — you never saw that in Tiger’s face. He was focused.

“All was right with the world, man. All the stars and the moons were aligned perfectly because Tiger was back where he is supposed to be. I was at home watching it on television and I damn near cried. Actually, I did. It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in sports. … I looked at those videos of all the people that said he would never win again, you noticed who wasn’t on there — me. Because I knew he was going to win. I have always said God doesn’t give us such brilliance to take it away. Tiger is a one-in-a-million.”

Matt Ryan

“I think just how calm he was throughout the entire thing. There were a ton of different guys [in the mix] and a ton of different things going on, he was just so steady. As an athlete, when you watch people with poise like that, it’s impressive. I’ve never met Tiger, but he’s got a big fan here in Atlanta. Ever since 1997, man. I remember watching the Masters growing up and was hooked on golf after that.”

Joe Burrow

“I didn’t watch golf for five years because I only watched golf when Tiger was playing and competing at a high level. I grew up watching him with my dad, him going out there with his red polos and just dominating the field. I only watch golf if Tiger’s playing.

“He was a phenom through his young ages and then he hit a low point and came back from it. I think adversity plays a part in everyone’s lives. I got emotional watching it, honestly.”

Chase Young

“The only thing I know about golf is Tiger Woods’ comeback. I think I watched it on YouTube a few times. Everybody was bad-mouthing him, saying he was done. They say it’s the biggest comeback in sports — ever. I definitely watched Tiger when I was going through what I was going through — and it helped.”

J.J. Watt

“He just kind of has that effect in that sport — the Tiger effect. The galleries are crazy, the fans are crazy, the TV ratings are crazy. It’s wild to watch one person be able to have that much pull and that much impact on an entire viewing audience. It’s one of those things where people say, ‘Golf is more exciting when Tiger’s in the hunt.’ I think that was a great example of it.”


Chris Paul

“I actually had some shoes made with Tiger on them. I had them made for that day. I actually played in them that [playoff game with the Houston Rockets]. I’m a big golfer, big fan of Tiger. It was a big day. I was going nuts with my family. I actually signed a pair of those and sent them for his foundation. Unbelievable comeback and I think he’s still got a lot more left to do.”

Geno Auriemma

“I remember being on the phone texting with my son, who is a huge Tiger fan. He said, ‘Dad, I have tears in my eyes watching this’ as this is going on. I think any true golfer, anybody that truly appreciates the game, understands what he’s meant to golf, what he’s meant to the game, what he’s meant to the tour, what he’s meant to his fellow tour pros. Not that golf isn’t any good without him, not that golf isn’t great no matter who’s winning, because there are so many great players today, but there is something special about when Tiger is in contention, in a major and that major is the Masters. I can’t even imagine the emotions that he felt, but I know the emotions that we all felt, those that are fans of his, and we’ll never forget it.”

Steve Kerr

“We watched the final three holes as a team (the Golden State Warriors). We were scheduled to start practice at whatever time and Tiger is finishing the final three holes and it looks like he’s going to win, so instead of watching film, we watched the last three holes. It felt like we were watching something monumental, something historic, something athletically that was really unique. So it felt bigger than a practice. We were all cheering for him. It was a pretty cool moment to watch it as a group, because it was such a good metaphor for any athlete to the resilience of the competitive desire that he showed to win the Masters in that fashion.”

Ray Allen

“I have five TVs in my living room. And it got to the point that I put all five TVs on the same thing because I wanted to see it in unison. I remember in ’97 when he won his first Masters, I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I was a rookie in the NBA and remember the bar I was sitting in. I was so excited, and so proud — because he was so young and he was the only black golfer on tour besides Vijay [Singh]. To come full circle this past year … greatness is about consistency over a long period of time.

“I think everybody felt his pain and it made him real because everybody for the longest time said, well, Tiger is unreal, he’s a robot. To do the things he’s doing, nobody can understand that. But once he went through that, it showed that he was real. And to build himself back up and win and be stronger and to dominate, it was a lesson for everybody to say, you know what, I’m no Tiger Woods, but when life knocks me down, I can get back up, I can fight.”


Mike Trout

“To come back from all he’s been through and all his surgeries … I’m getting chills just now thinking about it. If you think of golf, I think everybody thinks of Tiger Woods. You know he’s in the hunt, then … I was telling myself the whole time he was going to win the whole time. Everybody else was like, ‘No, no, no.’ Then when it happened … the experience, I wasn’t there, but I felt like I was watching it on TV. Growing up, he’s the reason I started golf, watching Tiger. Just how dominant he was. It’s pretty special. He sent me some clubs. It’s pretty special. I told myself I am not going to use them until I play with him. I don’t think I can hit them anyway, they’re like real skinny blades.”

Justin Verlander

“I was in the clubhouse in Houston watching and everyone just stopped because we were watching history. I think everybody just stopped what they were doing and appreciated what had gone into what he was doing. We got a lot of golf fans in our clubhouse, so everyone was watching.”

Roger Clemens



Roger Clemens discusses his memories of the 2019 Masters, when Tiger Woods returned to the pinnacle of the sport.

Tom Glavine

“About the middle of the round, you got the sense that it had that Tiger-type tournament feel to it, where you’re like, ‘OK, he’s coming and is he going to pull this off?’ So it was kind of some anxious breaths, I guess, hoping he was going to hang on and win it.”

John Smoltz

“I didn’t miss a shot. I was glued to the TV, as was the whole world. The minute it was over I texted him. Just the raw emotions we were able to see come out, that was something special. I will say, in my lifetime, it was the greatest Masters I think I’ve ever watched. I know what he’s been through. I’ve played a thousand rounds it seems like with him. Just anytime physically someone gets to a point where you don’t know if you’re ever going to play again and then you can climb the mountain again and do something everybody expected you to do at the peak of your game, I think he showed the world he wasn’t done … I think he showed himself and his kids seeing something special, historic. This gives him hope again to try to chase down a couple more records that he’s got his eyes on.”


Joe LaCava



Joe LaCava, Tiger Woods’s caddie, discusses his memories of the final putt at the 2019 Masters.

Jack Nicklaus

“I watched it from the boat (a 112-foot-yacht called Sea Bear).

“When the guys started filling up Rae’s Creek on the 12th hole, I’m watching them one after another hit the ball right of the bunker, and I said, ‘Really?’ You just can’t hit the ball right of the bunker. How many times have you seen the tournament lost because they hit it right of the bunker?

“I can tell you, I didn’t leave my chair. Tiger hit the ball, and of course he had a little cut shot over the left side of the bunker into the middle of the green. And the tournament is over.

“Tiger was smart enough to play the shot he played and he could play it. Tiger was rejuvenated by watching those balls go in the water and knowing he was smart enough not to do that. You could just see it on his face. He was back to doing what he used to do.”

Rory McIlroy

“I didn’t watch it live. I was on my way to the airport. I was following on my phone. I was getting updates on my phone. And then I watched the highlights when I got home, of course. You gotta watch how it gets done.

“I think it brought people back to a time when they were 10 years younger. That’s what they watched. There was a great nostalgic feel to it. It’s what we watched Tiger do every Sunday for years. And I think everyone saw the struggles that he’s been through and the fact that he could persevere and get back to that level again. It was awesome.”

Brooks Koepka

“I was just trying to do me, trying to play the best I can. Not worried. He doesn’t scare me. …

“It was cool to see. It was cool to finish up and basically watch it in the scoring tent. By the time I’m signing my card, he was hitting his chip [on 18]. And I’m like, well, if I go stand outside and wait for him I’m not going to see it. So I might as well watch it. It was pretty cool, it was unique to see that many guys. And everybody should be happy for him. It’s good for our sport, good for the fans, good for us, good for everybody.”

Paul Azinger

“I felt like when he walked up on the green on 12 and he stood over on that left side of the green waiting on those guys, he was pretty much saying, ‘Look at me, look at me. I’m in my power colors.’ I think the effect was real. And I felt he was going to win. You could just feel it.

“All anybody could talk about was him winning. I was emotionally affected by that. I really love Tiger, always have. I saw him when he first showed up, stuck by him. It was one of those things when things started to go belly up, I always kept saying, ‘Naysayers beware. You don’t know how good this guy is. If you’re writing him off, if you’re getting it wrong.'”

Tony Finau

“I think I look at it different than most guys. I was so in my lane. I wasn’t worried about Tiger and what he was doing until we walked off the tee on 18 and I knew I wasn’t going to win. And when he hit it in the fairway and he was going to win, I was genuinely happy for him and the game. But for 17 holes, I was just worried about me. Everybody enjoys seeing Tiger in the hunt.”

Justin Thomas

“I was in the little dining area eating lunch and I think he had just made birdie on 15. Once he hit his tee shot on 16 and made that putt, it was kind of like, ‘Wow, he’s going to win this thing.’ Then after [Koepka] missed that putt and made par, at that point it was over. So it’s when it kind of set in and it was like, ‘Wow, this is actually happening. This is unbelievable.'”

Lee Trevino

“It was just like [when] Nicklaus won at 46. I had just finished playing [the Masters that year, finishing 47th] and I drove to Atlanta. I was in the airport and there was a bar across from our gate where we were getting on the plane. And Nicklaus made that eagle putt on 15, everybody went nuts. And they were loading the plane and nobody would get on. They had to stop and wait for Nicklaus to finish. We told them to go ahead, we’ll take the next one! I remember exactly where I was then.

“And it was the same with Tiger. I was at home and it was wonderful. I was in awe. I thought this was the greatest thing that ever happened to the game. I can’t tell you the words I used but there weren’t a lot of letters in them! I know he had a pretty private life for all those years. And when he got hurt and it looked like he wasn’t going to play anymore, I think he realized that people really loved him. He got all kinds of letters. And I don’t think he ever realized that. When he came back, the way they accepted him it was for the better. He’s got a lot of personality. He has to understand now how much people love him. Especially golfers. We respect him. He didn’t fall out of bed and become the greatest golfer in the world.”

Jim Nantz

“It [felt like he would win] was definitely when Tiger was in the fairway on 11 and the group in front of him (Ian Poulter, Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson) was dumping balls in the water on 12 and it continued when he stepped on the tee at 12. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, everything is lined up now. The stars are aligned. The karma is on his side.’ It’s like when he was on top of the world and others would always find a way to fall apart.

“That is not to take anything away from the way Tiger played. These things added up to a very familiar feeling to me and I didn’t think anybody was going to be able to win other than Tiger. [Francesco ] Molinari had been a rock to that point going back to Carnoustie when he beat Tiger at The Open. Just to see all those mistakes at 12, it was shocking. And when Tiger had had his shot on 12, there was never any doubt in my mind where he was going to hit that ball. And it’s exactly where you thought, you probably could have drawn a 3-foot circle and that’s where his ball went.

“I’ve had so many different situations where I’ve been moved by a moment. There have been a million of them. But it definitely touched me when Tiger had that moment behind the 18th green with his children. As a dad, it struck a chord. I didn’t say anything. And that was pretty moving.”


Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece

“I was in Hawai’i at the LPGA Lotte. Unfortunately, I was trying to Monday qualify on Sunday, so I actually missed [the final round of the Masters]. As I was warming up, I was keeping up with all the updates, shot by shot.

“It was one of those moments where you knew it was a very special time in history of what was happening in the golf world. I was on the range, I was on the putting green checking my phone — and everyone else was as well. It was one of those times where everyone stopped what they were doing and watching Tiger do what he does. It was surreal. It was one of those special moments that you’ll always remember.

“I remember being in the fairway on my first hole and someone saying, ‘Tiger won.’ It makes me stop. I get goosebumps. I get emotional.

“Some of my favorite times are just him being around the kids and seeing what a great dad he is. Seeing that side of him, that a lot of people saw after he won the Masters. The hug, I think, was one of the best times in Tiger history. It was the emotional side of him.

Jessica Korda



Pro golfer Jessica Korda recalls the long road back for Tiger Woods and the eventual victory at the 2019 Masters.

Marina Alex

“My roommate, Jenny Suh and I, have lived together for four years. They made it an early start on Sunday [because of the threat of thunderstorms in Augusta, Georgia]. So we were like, ‘Sweet, we’re going to get up and have a brunch sort of thing.’ So we made pimento cheese sandwiches and we had mimosas and we basically sat on the couch and drank the whole morning watching Tiger. It was awesome. And then we cried like babies when he won because … it’s Tiger. If you say he doesn’t have an influence on your golf career you’re probably lying to yourself. He’s all I watched as a kid.”

Lorena Ochoa



Pro golfer Lorena Ochoa discusses the impact that Tiger Woods has when he is at the top of his game.

Danielle Kang

“The Tiger effect, it’s real.”

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