Tiger Woods opened his heart to fellow green jacket winners while serving sushi and fajitas at the Masters Champions Dinner, where legends gathered to share stories ahead of Thursday’s start at Augusta National.
It was the 15-time major winner’s turn — thanks to his epic 2019 triumph for a fifth green jacket — to select the special extras for Tuesday’s annual gathering, delayed from April like the tournament by the Covid-19 pandemic.
«Awfully special for me,» Woods said.
Two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw said Woods shared his emotions after a victory that came after back injuries which threatened his ability to live a normal life, much less play golf.
«Tiger last night was so wonderful,» Crenshaw said. «He was very self-effacing and open and we really enjoyed it. We had a really nice time.
«He was very personal, very giving, very open about how he feels and people love that. We had fun.»
Crenshaw praised the changes he saw in Woods, who turns 45 next month.
«It’s a revelation that does come over a long period of time,» he said. «It’s tough to be Tiger Woods, one of the world’s most famous athletes.»
At least one member of the select club of 33 living winners of the Masters was not on hand, with Spain’s Sergio Garcia, the 2017 champion, having withdrawn from the tournament on Monday after contracting coronavirus.
Woods, the man who offered up milkshakes and cheeseburgers after his record-setting 1997 Masters victory at age 21, this year served spicy tuna and tempura shrimp, steak and chicken fajitas, wine and desserts of flan, churros and sopapillas.
«To see Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen drinking milkshakes, that was awesome,» Woods recalled. «Just to hear the stories of all the guys over the years… they’re awesome stories.»
Woods will try to add to his own legendary tales by winning his 83rd US PGA Tour title this week to break the career record he shares with Snead and taking a sixth Masters victory to match the record set by Jack Nicklaus.
– Watson ‘scared to death’ of hosting –
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson recalled the pressure of his first hosting stint after winning in 2012, two years before he captured a second green jacket.
«I was scared to death. I didn’t know what to do,» he said. «There’s no rules. There’s no rule book. There’s no regulations. You just show up.
«Having the old guys here, the champions we look up to, it was a dream come true. I love hearing the stories.»
Watson still shakes his head in disbelief that he is among the select group.
«I’ll be still trying to figure out why I’m here,» Watson said. «We talk about legends and greats of the game and then somehow Bubba is in the locker room with them with the green jacket on. What an honor and a privilege.»
Watson looks forward to being the old man one day, explaining how he smashed a hook shot from the trees to set up his playoff victory over South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in 2012.
«One day, 40 or 30 years from now, I’ll be the guy telling random stories,» Watson said. «People will be like, ‘No, that didn’t happen, you didn’t hit that hook shot,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I did’.»
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson sees the dinner as one of the traditions that makes the Masters beloved by the world’s top golfers.
«The ability to spend time with, hang around and be a part of the champions from the past meant a lot to me then and I think it’s one of the great traditions now,» the 50-year-old said.
«This tournament treats past champions better than any tournament in the world.»