As Tiger Woods was reliving the pivotal sequence last year when he grabbed hold of a fifth green jacket and refused to let go, David Dobbins sent me a live photo in search of context.
In lieu of the final round of the 2020 Masters on Easter Sunday – postponed to (hopefully) November because of the COVID-19 pandemic – CBS was rebroadcasting the 2019 tournament with bonus overlapping commentary from Woods and Jim Nantz. Woods had just tapped in for birdie on the 15th hole, taking sole possession of the lead for the first time.
Every spare inch outside the ropes around that lowest pocket of the course surrounding the ponds and greens of 15 and 16 was packed with the colorful mosaic of patrons poised on a powder keg. Bill Macatee said “the impossible has become possible” while Tiger walked through the din to the 16th tee.
Then Woods hit his hooked 8-iron to the spot on the right ridge where the ball takes the hard left/U-turn toward the preferred Sunday pin. The noise built to a crescendo as the ball inched closer toward the cup and everyone wondered whether it would drop and upstage that “In your life!” chip-in that helped win him his last green jacket in 2005. It came within inches of being the 23rd ace – and third that Sunday – on the 16th in Masters history. The easy birdie, however, would give him the two-shot cushion he needed to bring home his emotional resurrection story.
Nantz asked, “How loud, what’s the vibe in that hollow on 16 on Sunday?”
Tiger with a chuckle: “The weirdest way to describe it is it’s so loud it’s not loud.”
15 and 16 during final round of 2019 Masters. David Dobbins/Eureka Earth
While reliving this moment Sunday, here came this picture from Dobbins sent by DM on Twitter. Dobbins, the founder of Eureka Earth aerial intelligence, spent Easter morning social distancing from 1,200 feet above Augusta National Golf Club in his Cessna 172. As he had the year before when he captured some glorious aerial shots of an emotional Masters, he was taking pictures from above – only this scene was the Polaroid opposite.
Dobbins’ ghostly frame above that pivotal hollow was desolate. Vacant bleachers to the right of the 15th green. Visible footings and scars where the grandstands to the left of 15 and beside 16 tee were already cleared away. Clouds and trees reflected in the still water of the pond where no balls were skipped this April. A stark reminder of the Masters that wasn’t, with only the echoes from 2019 – or 2005 … 1986 … 1975 … 1962 and on back to 1935’s “shot heard round the world” ringing in our memories or imagination.
It’s so not loud, it’s loud.
This picture screams of our collective plight trying to mitigate this pandemic. It’s an eerie moment on a quiet Easter morning that captures an experience the world has lost along with the lives of loved ones and the naivete that anyone, anywhere is immune.
Tiger said he “still has goosebumps” reliving that moment last year when a comeback green jacket was all but his down in that hollow.
Dobbins’ haunting anniversary picture leaves us with only chills.