Gary Player — Tiger Woods’ remarks at Champions Dinner ‘remarkable’

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods was emotional during his news conference Tuesday recalling his 2019 Masters victory. Apparently that carried over to the Champions Dinner he hosted Tuesday night at Augusta National.

Per tradition, the defending champion leads the dinner that includes only past tournament winners and the club chairman, Fred Ridley.

The gathering was smaller this year as several past champions elected not to come due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Gary Player, 86, and Jack Nicklaus, 80, were in attendance and noted how touched they were by Woods’ remarks.

“Tiger was really remarkable at the dinner this year as host,” said Player, who along with Nicklaus hit ceremonial tee shots early Thursday morning to begin the 84th Masters. “It was very heartwarming listening to him speak.

“He said he was on the way to the golf course and he had to stop because he had tears in his eyes and paused for a little while on the road because a lot of the memories were going through his mind very quickly. As I interpreted what he was saying, and to have won the tournament again with his children there.”

Woods became emotional Tuesday in his pre-tournament news conference when describing the aftermath of his 15th major victory and fifth Masters win. The hug of his son, Charlie, he said, reminded him of 22 years earlier when Woods won his first Masters in 1997 and met his late father, Earl, behind the 18th green.

“It was full circle,” Woods said.

Officially called the Masters Club, the dinner began during the 1952 tournament when defending champion Ben Hogan hosted all the former winners. Each year, the defending champion hosts the dinner and chooses the menu.

Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw has for several years served as the master of ceremonies, and several of the past champions typically speak or tell stories.

“Gary was right, Tiger was very emotional,” Nicklaus said. “I’ve never seen Tiger that way. But it was good. It’s always good. You always walk away with some feeling of something you hadn’t had before.”

Woods’ victory in 2019 came almost exactly two years after he had spinal fusion surgery, the fourth surgery on his back. At times, Woods’ low back gives him fits, and he has struggled at various tournaments this year with it.

But the 82-time PGA Tour winner pronounced himself well earlier this week, and Nicklaus spoke with Woods, who told him, “I think I have one more in me.”

“And he may,” added the 18-time major champion. “He may have more than one in him. Tiger is not different than the rest of us. What we do, it takes a toll on our bodies.”

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